First-born son

Most women will date a first-born or an only son at some time in their lives. With families getting smaller, there are more of them around.

What should she expect?

First-born children get all kinds of attention and are encouraged to achieve. They are expected to carry the family banner to great heights and they often succeed.

They often go on to positions of leadership or high achievement.

Fifty-two percent of United States presidents were first-borns, as were Beethoven, Shakespeare, Freud, Mao Tse-Tung, Hitler, Nietzsche, James Dean, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Martin Luther King, Fidel Castro, Einstein, Galileo, Charles Dickens, Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali and 21 of the first 23 American astronauts to go into space.

But the attention and the spotlight add up to one thing--responsibility!

Ask any first-born and he will tell you that he had to toe the mark while his younger brothers or sisters had it easier. The simple truth is, as each child is added, the rules get relaxed a little more.

For one reason or another we expect too much of first-borns. They are often forced to follow in fathers’ footsteps as far as professions are concerned. The conflict between dad, who wants his first-born son to take over the family business, and son, who wants to be a forest ranger or even a missionary, is well known.

First-born children thrive in school. Getting good grades is something they can do easily to satisfy mom and dad’s expectations. Every little paper, every scrap of modeled clay they bring home gets great reviews from the adoring family.

Add these characteristics to first- and only-borns:

  • goal-oriented,
  • achiever,
  • conservative,
  • believer in authority and ritual,
  • loyal,
  • self-reliant.

Parents have a way of depending on their first-born child. I call it the “let George the first-born do it” syndrome.

But there are two types of first-borns, the compliant first-born who will bend over backward to do as they are expected, are conscientious and care-giving, and then there is another brand of first-born who is more assertive and strong willed.

In some cases, these power-driven first-borns can acquire some badger-like qualities. They develop traits that make them high achievers and hard drivers. They have high expectations and a strong need to be “kingpin”.

Another thing about your typical first-borns is that they are often serious. They thrive on being in control, on time and organized.

First- and only-borns automatically fit into the category labeled “advanced”. It isn’t their idea, but with only adults for models, they naturally take on more adult characteristics. They are “little adults” who often go on to become the leaders and achievers in life.

The majority of people who seek counseling help are first-born or only-born children.

When first-borns can’t quite hack it with all the expectations, pressures, and demands, they may wind up in a counselor’s office.

They have tried their best to be conscientious, achieving, dependable, mature--in a word, perfect.

From Birth Order Book, The: Why You Are the Way You Are

by Kevin Leman


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