Being the youngest child in a family can sometimes be a trial. Last-borns feel left out of activities in which their older siblings participate, they miss out on privileges -- such as staying up later -- given to their brothers and sisters and they may feel bossed around by their bigger and stronger siblings. However, not everything about being a youngest child is bad. Last-born children receive a number of advantages because of their position in the family.
Youngest children often receive special treatment due to their position as the littlest child in the family. Parents, perceiving the last-born as less capable than his older brothers and sisters, may continue doing things, such as feeding and brushing his teeth, past the point when he can do them for himself. His older siblings are also likely to talk for him, tell Mom or Dad if he needs something, and help him with his schoolwork. While this pampering can lead to the perception of youngest children as spoiled, a 2008 study conducted by Samantha Punch on children's attitudes about birth order found that last-borns felt the extra attention they received was one advantage of being the youngest child.
A last-born child is often the center of attention, surrounded by doting parents and siblings. As a result, they frequently grow into charming, sociable, outgoing people with many friends. Youngest children are the life of the party and know how to make others laugh. They have an easy time talking to people, are good listeners and don't easily take offense. Often they end up in a helping profession, such as a counselor or teacher, because they enjoy the social interaction and relate well to others.
Youngest children often have to use creative methods to carve out their place in a family where older siblings already occupy niches, such as the academic or the social butterfly. This creativity makes them more open to new and radical ideas. According to birth order expert Frank J. Sulloway, later-born children were nine times as likely as firstborns to become martyrs during the Protestant Reformation, which revolutionized the Christian religion. Nicholas Copernicus, who successfully challenged established scientific fact that the Earth was the center of universe, was the youngest of four children.
The need to distinguish themselves from older siblings can also lead last-borns to take risks. A 2010 study in "Personality and Social Psychology Review" analyzed how birth order influenced sports participation. Later-born children were 1.48 times more likely to participate in dangerous sports than firstborns. The researchers also examined data on the performance of 700 brothers who played Major League Baseball. The younger brothers were 10.6 times as likely to engage in the risky practice of stealing bases and 3.2 times as likely to steal bases successfully, indicating their skill in taking risks.
- University of Stirling; Negotiating the Birth Order: Children's Experiences; Samantha Punch; 2008
- "Were You Born for Each Other?"; Kevin Leman; 1991
- Sulloway.org; Birth Order, Sibling Competition, and Human Behavior; Frank J. Sulloway
- "Personality and Social Psychology Review"; Birth Order and Risk Taking in Athletics: A Meta-Analysis and Study of Major League Baseball; Frank J. Sulloway, et al.; November 2010
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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