New research claims firstborns are more motivated to learn, while secondborns are more motivated to win, reports Rachel Lowry of Deseret News:
“The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, examined almost 400 students. It found that birth order can be a lens through which first and secondborns see the world, in ways that impact their motivation and likelihood of career and personal success (though the roles often can be reversed with patience and practice).”
Curious to learn more, I looked at the study itself. Led by Bernd Carette of Ghent University in Belgium, the abstract reads in part:
“Using different analytic approaches, we show that birth order lies at the heart of people’s goal preferences as we consistently found that firstborns have developed a preference for mastery goals (which are based on self-referenced standards of competence), whereas secondborns have developed a preference for performance goals (which are based on other-referenced standards of competence). These findings may help explain why people differently deﬁne, experience, and respond to competence-relevant situations, including the workplace, the classroom, and the ball ﬁeld.”)
I’m sceptical in general of birth order theories. The best comment I can remember reading about them is that, while one’s position in the family certainly does affect one’s experiences growing up, it doesn’t affect personality or outlook in any predictable way. That is, while birth order matters in each individual case, it doesn’t allow us to make sweeping generalizations across individuals.
Rachel Lowry, author of the Deseret News article, makes another important point in quoting Toni Falbo, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas:
“Most of the variants or factors that contribute to any particular outcome at any one time—such as socioeconomic status or health—are outside of birth order,” says Falbo. “These are sorts of issues that have more direct connections to outcomes than whether you were second of three.”
But let’s hear from you—do you feel that you were affected by your position among your siblings, and do you see regularities among the firstborns and secondborns you know?
This post originally appeared at The Brilliant Blog
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