Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Do birth order traits apply to twins?

It’s always amazes me that when I met my newborn twins, they came pre-packaged with distinct individual personalities.  I always assumed that a child’s behavioural tendencies were formed mostly by nurture.  But it wasn’t until I had my own babies that I understood the enormous role nature plays in forming little people.

I find personalities fascinating.  Why are people the way they are?  Why do some have very similar personality traits to other people?  I’m not someone who reads my daily horoscope to seek  guidance from the stars, but I do think there is something in star signs.  I’m a Virgo who are typically perfectionists, practical and analytical – which describes me well.  My twins (Itchy & Scratchy) were born in January, which makes them Capricorns.  Does this help understand their personalities?  Capricorns are serious, independent and strong willed.  This certainly describes the eldest twin. 

But here is where it comes unstuck... although my twin girls are identical (so have the same genetic make up), were born 2 minutes apart, were obviously born on the same day, and have the same parents...they are so very different.  Why?  I’ve been looking for theories to explain this difference.  Could  Sibling Order be it?

There’s growing evidence that depending on where you’re placed in the family, greatly determines the sort of person you are, your strengths and weaknesses.  The first born are typically leaders, confident, and want to manage others.   They want to be in control and consequently aren’t  big fans of surprises or like feeling out of their depth.  They are perfectionists and seek approval from authority figures.  They are high achievers and studies show that they have slightly higher IQ’s than their siblings.  The majority of CEO’s will be first borns.

The second born will have opposite characteristics to their older siblings.  They’ll be easier to get along will, be more flexible and can compromise.  They may have less drive than their older sibling but they will be the one to hold a group together and can keep the peace.  They put others first and they can feel left out in the family.

Fine out more about younger children. 

The reason for these changes are put down to a) the differing ways parents treat their children, and b) the way a child reacts to their other siblings.  It makes sense that a younger sibling will want to be different to their older brother/sister and have to develop better negotiating skills to get round their bigger more experienced sibling.  It also makes sense that an older child gets more attention from their parents and be relied upon to set a good example –pushing them to be high achievers. 

But what is interesting is my 19 month old twins (my only children) definitely conform to these personality traits and it’s not down to one having more attention than the other, or the younger one having to work around an older/more experienced sister.  They get the same attention and treatment and were born 2 minutes apart – but still show the differences listed above.

Scratchy (the eldest) is more physically dominant, reaches physical milestones first and is quite serious.  She is hard on herself if she can’t do something and dominates Itchy in every way, regularly stealing her toys.  She herds her like a sheep and will just push her (or sit on her) to stop her from having attention from me.  But she responds best to discipline and just loves to help me with chores.  Itchy (second born) is much more relaxed and playful.  She’ll let Scratchy be dominant and bide her time for attention.  She’ll happily hand over her toys and wait until Scratchy has cast aside before picking it up again.  She’ll try and cheer Scratchy up and make her laugh.  But discipline isn’t working as well with her, she just laughs it off and sees the fun.

There are parents of twins who keep the sibling order a secret until they are much older and I can understand why they might – to avoid rivalry and prevent them from falling into the typical birth order hierarchy.  But my twins are already showing these traits, and they’re far too young to comprehend ages.   I think honesty is the best policy and will just continue to try and give them the same attention, love and discipline as possible...and hope it’s not an issue.  There may well be parents of older twins who would recommend otherwise, in which case I’d love to hear from you. 

Do you fit into these birth order traits?  Do your kids follow this rule of thumb?  Do you put the differing personalities down to something else?  It’s a fascinating subject and if you have a view, I’d love to hear it.

1 comment:

  1. My 19 month old twins are different but they don't understand their birth order, so I'm not sure it's that. As far as I am concerned, I have an eldest, a middle, and two youngest. I tell the older girls not to pay any attention to the birth order thing as I don't think it's right to treat them differently on the basis of which one the doctor chose to chop out first. I do think that older people show traits based on birth order though. Me, my brother and my sister definitely show classic oldest, middle and youngest child characteristics. Fascinating stuff.