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Published April 21. 2012 09:01AM

A few years back, I read a book by Dr. Kevin Lehman. The title intrigued me "The Birth Order Book." I wanted to know more about how people's personalities can be controlled by their place in the order of the family. A lot of what I read made sense. After all, I am the eldest of three children, I am married to a "youngest" and I gave birth to an "only." Many of the traits described by Dr. Lehman fit my entire family scenario.

At a library used book sale, I came across another interesting book "Growing Up Firstborn," also by Dr. Lehman. I grabbed that book quickly, and started reading it in the car on the way home from the sale. (No, I wasn't driving.) Holy accuracy! It seemed as though Dr. Lehman had been living inside my head for the past 71 years. All of my quirks and eccentricities and strengths were described in detail.

Before you start pooh-poohing about how birth order can affect your life, let me tell you so did I at first. I felt that we are each unique individuals and our personalities are formed by many things- not just where we are born into a family. But, after reading the two books, I can honestly say that my feelings have changed. In my humble opinion, our birth order can determine a lot about our lives.

So, consider this column as a mini-book report. I want to share some of the important facts I learned about birth order. Since Dr. Lehman is an accepted authority on the subject, I can't go wrong using his theories. Here are a few of them:

1. If you are the oldest child in a family, the first boy or first girl, or have a gap of five or more years between you and your next-oldest sibling, you are considered a "firstborn."

2. Your birth order can determine how you behave, how you interact with others, to whom you will be emotionally attracted, and which career path you will choose.

3. Firstborns over-organize and seek to overachieve at their own expense. They never feel as though their efforts are good enough and they never feel really free to be the person they choose to be.

4. Firstborns are not allowed to be children for very long. They are treated differently from the later children. Parents see their eldest child as "big" brother or sister even when they are still quite unable to handle that role. Whenever I see a little child with a tee-shirt that reads "I'm the BIG brother (or sister)," I truly feel sorry for that kid.

5. Firstborns are expected to be the smartest, best-behaved, most conscientious, strongest, etc. etc. It's no wonder that they consistently fail to measure up to those exacting standards.

6. As a general rule, firstborns grow up to be perfectionists. They set goals, are well-organized, and are the sort of people who know where they are going, how they'll get there, and how long the journey will take.

7. On the negative side, firstborns are overly critical, always under great pressure, have little room for flexibility, think too much, know they are right even when they're not, have a compulsion to straighten out the world, and box themselves in as they become slaves to their "lists."

8. "Only" children are considered to be "Super-firstborns" and have all of the qualities of a firstborn, but with greater depth and more pressure.

Alfred Adler, another famous "birth order" expert, thinks that birth order leaves an indelible stamp upon the style of a person's life. He firmly believes that every difficulty of personality development is caused by rivalry and a lack of cooperation in the family. For instance, a firstborn cannot help that he/she is the eldest. However, the younger siblings always hold that against the oldest brother or sister. There's not much that they can do that their eldest sibling hasn't already done before. And so, from the moment the younger children come into the world, they are looking for a way to get their fair share of attention.

Recognizing that our lives are affected by many outside influences and that our personalities are developed through experiences as well as genetics and environment, we cannot dismiss the impact that birth order has on us.

If you are interested in knowing more about this subject, get any of Dr. Kevin Lehman's books. You will learn a lot. Much of your newfound knowledge will help you deal with your everyday life.


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