Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eight Questions to Find Your Real Birth Order

From time to time we see claims linking birth order and
various medical and social conditions.  Research has as
its objective, to look for answers to specific questions that
help explain our world.  Many times it is to test a theory in
order to make something more predictable based on the
research. If the sample population is not clearly identified,
then the data that is collected is flawed, as well as the results.

Double Blind Studies
Using a double blind study is always the best method to study
a problem.  Neither the subjects nor the persons administering
the experiment know which group is the control and which is
the experimental. This type of study is very difficult to do when
birth order is being studied. Most birth order studies use
questionnaires to find their subject’s birth order. By using the
following eight important principles to find the “Real” birth of
their participant’s birth order studies will be more accurate.
Most studies fall short in their original identification of the birth
orders of their participants. There are eight questions that
must be answered before the sample will have correct birth 

1. Spacing between Siblings and Groups of Siblings
The spacing between siblings is by far the most important
factor in finding the “Real” birth order.  If there are four or
more years on either side of a person it adds the Only
characteristic to their ordinal number of birth.

A firstborn that is at least 4yrs older than the next sibling is a
One/Only birth order.
A second born that has a 4yr separation between siblings is a
Two/Only birth order.
A third born that has a 4yr separation between siblings is a
Three/Only birth order
The fourth born that has a 4yr separation between siblings is a
 Four/Only birth order.

These children assume their Double birth orders as they spend
time alone at home with at least one parent for the four years
before they go off to school. They pick up the characteristics
of the Only child because of this added nurturing.  The Only
characteristic amplifies, intensifies and magnifies the ordinal 
birth order characteristics.

When a group of siblings in a family are separated by four or
more years the siblings in the second or third family get double
ordinal birth orders. These children show a blending of their
two ordinal birth numbers. These two examples will show what
happens when spacing occurs.
Family A; four children with the oldest Becky, age 18 who is 6
years older then the next group of three  Jim age 12, Bob age 
10 and Linda age 8, all spaced two years apart.

The First born Becky is 6 years older; she becomes a 
One/Only birth order. The second, third and fourth children 
in the next group receive the following Double birth orders. 
Jim becomes a Two/One, Bob a Three/Two, and Linda a 
Four/Three birth order.

Family B; four children with the first two, James 11 and Lee 10
are one year apart. Then there is a 4 year separation before
Kathy age 6 and Anne age 4 are born.

First born James is a #1; Second born Lee is a #2 then the 4
year gap. The Third born Kathy is a Three/One, and the Fourth
born Anne is a Four/Two Double birth order.

Without understanding the spacing and Double birth orders the
sample would be flawed.

2. Stepbrothers and Sisters
The addition of stepbrothers and sisters in a combined family
Can change birth orders.  A child will be demoted by an older
step-sibling and this must be taken into account in the
questionnaire. If a child changes birth order in a combined 
family, they should not be included unless it is a study 
dealing with combined families and their new birth orders.

3. Who did the child live with until Age 16
The interaction with siblings is what determines birth order
characteristics. This is why a study needs to know who the
child was living with until age 16.  Many times a child grows
up living with a grandparent or another relative. In divorce
situations not all of the children may live with the same parent. 
Knowing where they were living and if there are any other
children in this family and their ages will determine the birth
order of the children in the sample.

4. Handicapped or Disabled Siblings
This item can really upset the birth order.  If an older sibling is
Disabled or becomes disabled during his childhood then all the
other siblings move up a spot in birth order. If the handicapped
sibling is at a lower number than all the siblings above him then
the affect will be less. These children may feel that they did not
receive the normal amount of attention or interaction because 
of the extra attention given the disabled sibling.

5. Death of a Sibling
If a death of a sibling occurs then all of the other siblings move
Up a position.  If the sibling that died is kept “alive” by the 
family as a “phantom” sibling than this affects the siblings that 
were born later or were at a lower numbered birth order than 
the sibling that died.

6. Adopted Siblings
Adopted siblings that come into an existing family will assume
a birth order number based on their ages.  They may demote
a natural born sibling or elevate another depending on the ages
of all the children. An Only sibling would become a firstborn if
the adopted sibling is three years or less younger.  The Only 
child now has a brother or sister.

7. Twins or Multiple Births
These children also take on the characteristics of the different
Birth orders once they know who is oldest or youngest in the
multiple birth. The other children in the family will be affected
by a multiple birth because the multiple birth can use much of
the family resources and

8. Cultural Bias
Most societies have a male gender bias in their family’s
structure. This is especially true in Asian and Arab cultures
where the children with female genders are not held in as
high esteem as males. The first male to be born may assume
the firstborn position in these families and therefore change
his birth order number.

Do Firstborns Have More Allergies?  A Study with Problems

On Sunday, March 20, 2011 a study was presented at the
annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy,
Asthma & Immunology in San Francisco, California. By
Monday morning the conclusions from this study hit the
news media.

News Release
Study finds common allergies tied to birth order
Researchers found a higher risk of developing several types of
allergies in firstborns compared to those that were second or
third borns.  This is the age we live in, as headlines like this
increase the audience and readers but is it really true?

A Closer Look at the Birth Order Data
This study was done by Takashi Kusunoki in Shiga, Japan.
They questioned parents of 13,000 children in Japan between
the ages 7 and 15. They asked the parents for information on
the history of allergies before the age of one. The findings
showed the firstborns with a 4% increase, the second borns a
3.5% increase and the thirdborns a 2.6% increase in allergies.

Flaws in the Study
To ask someone to remember 7 to 15yrs later about the 
allergy history of their child is very subjective.  In all 
societies the firstborns get an extraordinary about of attention 
where every cry, runny nose, or slightest problem will be 
addressed by the parents.  The later born children do not 
get as much attention and if they had problems they may 
not be remembered or just ignored. Japan is one of very 
few countries that has a name for the second born hiyameshi 
a word also meaning cold rice.  This cultural bias may have 
played a role in the study.

This study did not take into account any of our eight ways to
find the Real Birth order of the children in the study.  A child
with a Double birth order of the type with Only characteristics
may be treated more like a firstborn and less like a later born
and would affect the results of the study.

The study is interesting but not conclusive since the sample
was not uniform.

Study Says Eldest Children Have Higher I.Q’s –New York Times
Dr. Petter Kristenen of the University of Oslo and Dr. Tor
Bjerkedal of the Norwegian Armed Forces Medical Services
conducted the study. This study looked at the I.Q. scores of
241,310 18-19 year old men born from 1967 to 1976 using
their military records. The only adjustments were parents
education level, maternal age at birth, and family size. The
results showed the eldest children scored 3% higher then
second children and 4% higher than third borns. They also
looked at 63,951 pairs of brothers and found the same results.
The researchers did examine the scores of the younger sibling
after an older sibling had died. They describe this as a 
functional Firstborn.  Their scores came out the same as if 
they were the eldest.

Flaws in the Study
It does not look like this study used all eight of the factors that
would find their subjects Real birth orders.  They did use one,
the death of a elder sibling with predicable results as the 
second born was now being treated like a firstborn or Only 
child.  I’m sure in the study there were also many subjects 
with some sort of Double birth order, this would influence 
the results. When the characteristics for birth orders are 
described it is always the firstborn that wants to excel in school 
with the later borns picking something else to make them
different, it is usually athletics for the second born.
The test for I.Q. is a written one something the firstborn, being
The better student, would have a slight edge.  I.Q. is just one
measure of intelligence and three and four percent is not very

Firstborns will continue to use this study to their advantage over
their younger siblings.  We know the data and conclusions may
be flawed.

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear or See in the News
Now you can look at any story or news item on birth order
more critically. You will see if they used all of the eight items
in their identification of the participants in the study before you
accept their conclusions.  As they say, it may be like comparing
apples to oranges.

For more information about Birth Order you can find it in my book
Life's Fingerprint: How Birth Order Affects Your Path Throughout Life
by Dr. Robert V.V. Hurst or visit our website at