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Are first borns more selfish?

15 December
Posted by:
Michael Grose

A recent study found that first borns are more likely to be selfish than younger siblings and more likely to achieve greatness as well.

French researchers arranged a group of people to take part in a financial game designed to assess co-operation.

Players were asked to give money away with the chance of it being returned to them at treble the value. Trust and risk were big factors in the game. Four hundred people took part in the game including 178 firstborns, 48 middle children, 125 lastborns and 66 only children.

Scrutiny of tactics showed that first borns gave away 25% less money than other birth order positions. They were less cooperative, less trustworthy and less likely to giving away money and the take the risk of higher returns.

The researchers maintain that something about first borns’ childhoods makes it harder for them to trust others. Perhaps, says writer Fiona McRae, it’s more the shock of not being the centre of attention that makes eldest children wary of the motives of others. I think this is stretching things a little far.

It’s a first born trait not to take risks. Younger borns are more likely to be risk-takers, and even be a little reckless. So perhaps the supposed self-centredness attributed to eldests was more about an unwillingness to take risks than any lack of generosity.

I’m not sure that eldest children are self-centred either.

Many first borns, spent some part of their childhoods being big brother or sister to their siblings, which meant giving up some of their time to looking after them and running errands for parents who were busy raising younger siblings. They were also required to grow up quicker than younger siblings, who had the luxury of having elder siblings to put in their service.

As a bona fide youngest born, your writer is expert at putting other people in his service, albeit in the nicest possible way. This is a skill I undoubtedly learnt and put to good use in childhood. After all, what use is there having capable older siblings if you can’t call on them for some assistance.

So what do you think? Are first borns likely to be more self-centred than those in other positions? Or is it younger kids that have it all their own way? How does birth order impact on your kids? Is birth order more fiction than fact?

If you want to read more about birth order check out my book Why first borns rule the world and last borns want to change it. (Get it HERE). You’ll get the lowdown on how birth order impacts on children’s (and adults’) personalities and how to parent kids in each position.

Check out an interview I did recently about the impact of birth order on children’s personalities on Channel 9’s Weekend Today program.


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