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Birth Order Effects: Myths

Supporters and Opponents of Birth Order Effects

The following are a group of researchers who have all done an extensive amount of research and studies on the effects of Birth Order. Ernst and Angst are especially known for their longitudinal studies attempting to disprove all myths that Birth Order affects personality and development.

Read about them

Jules Angst

Ernst and Angst did a thorough and conscientious job of reviewing the birth order literature. They examined research reports from all over the world, placing the most weight on carefully done studies that controlled for sibship size (the number of offspring in a family) and socioeconomic status. Here is their conclusion:

Birth order and sibship size do not have a strong impact on personality. . . . An environmental variable that is considered highly relevant is thus disaffirmed as a predictor for personality and behavior. (E&A, 1983, p. 284, emphasis theirs)


Frederick Townsend

Frank J. Sulloway

Cecile Ernst

Swiss researchers CÚcile Ernst and Jules Angst concluded that birth order has little or no effect on adult personality. "Whenever studies of representative adult samples were carried out with an unobjectionable method," they said, "birth order differences were nil" (1983, p. 186). In other words, firstborns and laterborns were indistinguishable in personality.

Judith Rich Harris

Harris takes a more objective point of view concerning birth order.  She analyzes both Sulloway's findings which support Birth Order Effects and Ernst and Angst's studies which oppose birth order effects.

Alfred Adler

Adler believes that birth order does not cause any direction of personality development but it may be used by the individual as a buildring brick for his/her freely chosen style of life and fictional final goal.

Frank J. Sulloway is a psychologist who strongly supports the idea that birth order does have a major impact on an individual's personality and behaviours.  In his book Born to Rebel  he criticizes Ernst and Angst extensively, and states that birth order most definitely affects personality.

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By: Holly Clarke and Ashley Muise