The Problem of Influence of Children’s Birth Order in the Family on Their Intellectual Abilities and Personality Traits



The article analyses theoretical approaches and empirical research of the influence of the children’s birth order in the family on their intellectual and creative abilities, achievements in education, personality traits, behaviors and social preferences. It is shown that the results of the studies vary depending on the method of data analysis - the effect of decreasing intelligence while increasing the birth sequence number detected when comparing indicators of large numbers of children with different birth order from different families, and generally not detectable in intra-family analysis data. To explain the differences obtained the authors used three basic theoretical models: a model of merge, the model of resource depletion and impurity model. Due to differences in birth order personality traits have more pronounced differences in the cognitive sphere. Research confirms that according to the results of the personal questionnaire «Big five» firstborns display more pronounced «honesty», and younger children-«kindness» and «openness» to experience. Individual work on features of social interaction of senior and subsequent children demonstrated a great ability of younger children to cooperation. Despite the fact that the prognostic significance of identified effects in large samples is not as great as in individual families, results may have practical significance for the pedagogical and psychological work with children.

General Information

Keywords: birth order, mental abilities, personality traits, social skills

Journal rubric: Developmental Psychology and Age-Related Psychology

Article type: review article


Funding. The study is carried out with the support of RFBR grant, project № 18-013-01023 and project № 17-06-00574

For citation: Lapteva N.M., Valueva E.A., Shepeleva E.A. The Problem of Influence of Children’s Birth Order in the Family on Their Intellectual Abilities and Personality Traits [Elektronnyi resurs]. Sovremennaia zarubezhnaia psikhologiia = Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology, 2019. Vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 83–94. DOI: 10.17759/jmfp.2019080208. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Adler A. Praktika i teoriya individual'noi psikhologii [Practice and theory of individual psychology]. Moscow: Akademicheskii proekt, 2007. 232 p. (In Russ.).
  2. Zyryanova N.M. Rannie siblingovye issledovaniya [Elektronnyi resurs] [Early sibling studies]. Psikhologicheskie issledovaniya [Psychological Studies], 2008, vol. 2, no. 2, 27 p. URL: (Accessed 13.06.2019). (In Russ., Abstr. in Engl.).
  3. Kh'ell L.A., Zigler D.Dzh. Teorii lichnosti [Personality theory]. Spb.: Piter, 2007, pp. 174-182. (In Russ.).
  4. Barclay K., Hällsten M., Myrskylä M. Birth order and college major in Sweden. Social Forces, 2017, vol. 96, no. 2, pp. 629–660. doi:10.1093/sf/sox069
  5. Black S.E., Devereux P.J., Salvanes K.G. The more the merrier? The effect of family size and birth order on children's education. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2005, vol. 120, no. 2, pp. 669–700. doi:10.1093/qje/120.2.669
  6. Black S.E., Grönqvist E., Öckert B. Born to lead? The effect of birth order on noncognitive abilities. Review of Economics and Statistics, 2018, vol. 100, no. 2, pp. 274–286. doi:10.1162/REST_a_00690
  7. Bleske-Rechek A., Kelley J.A. Birth order and personality: A within-family test using independent self-reports from both firstborn and laterborn siblings. Personality and Individual Differences, 2014, vol. 56, pp. 15–18. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2013.08.011
  8. Bonesrønninga H., Massihb S.S. Birth order effects on young students’ academic achievement. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 2011, vol. 40, no. 6, pp. 824–832. doi:10.1016/j.socec.2011.08.010
  9. Cho H. Birth order and education. Evidence from a Korean cohort. Economics Letters, 2011, vol. 110, no. 3, pp. 200–202. doi:10.1016/j.econlet.2010.11.044
  10. Costa P.T., McCrae R.R. NEO PI-R professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, 1992. 101 p.
  11. Eisenman R. Creativity, birth order, and risk taking [Elektronnyi resurs]. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 1987, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 87–88. URL: (Accessed: 13.06.2019).
  12. Ellis H.A. A study of British genius. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1904. 396 p.
  13. Ernst C., Angst J. Birth Order: Its Influence on Personality. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1983. 343 p.
  14. Galton F. English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture. London: Macmillan&Co. 1874, pp. 16–75. doi:10.4324/9780429020919
  15. Harris J.R. Context-specific learning, personality, and birth order. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2000, vol. 9, no. 5, pp. 174–177. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00087
  16. Harris J.R. Socialization, personality development, and the child's environments: Comment on Vandell. Developmental Psychology, 2000, vol. 36, no. 6, pp. 711–723. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.36.6.711
  17. Healeya M.D., Ellis B.J. Birth order, conscientiousness, and openness to experience Tests of the family-niche model of personality using a within-family methodology. Evolution and Human Behavior, 2007, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 55–59. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2006.05.003
  18. Hertwig R., Davis N.J., Sulloway F.J. Parental investment: how an equity motive can produce inequality. Psychological Bulletin, 2002, vol. 128, no. 5, pp. 728–745. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.128.5.728
  19. Hotz V., Pantano J. Strategic Parenting, Birth Order and School Performance. Journal of Population Economics, 2015, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 911–936. doi:10.1007/s00148-015-0542-3
  20. Boomsma D.I. et al. Intelligence and birth order in boys and girls. Intelligence, 2008, vol. 36, pp. 630–634. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2008.01.005
  21. Deary I.J. et al. Intelligence and educational achievement. Intelligence, 2007, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 13–21. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2006.02.001
  22. Kristensen P. et al. Intelligence test scores and birth order among young Norwegian men (conscripts) analyzed within and between families. Intelligence, 2007, vol. 35, no. 5, pp. 503–514. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2007.01.004
  23. Kalimijn M., Kraaykamp G. Late or later? A sibling analysis of the effect of maternal age on children's schooling. Social Science Research, 2005, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 634–650. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2004.04.008
  24. Kantarevic J., Mechoulan S. Birth order, educational attainment, and earnings. The Journal of Human Resources, 2006, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 755–777. doi:10.3368/jhr.XLI.4.755
  25. Kristensen P., Bjerkedal T. Educational attainment of 25 year old Norwegians according to birth order and gender. Intelligence, 2010, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 123–136. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2009.08.003
  26. Kubaa R., Flegra J., Havlíčekc J. The effect of birth order on the probability of university enrolment. Intelligence, 2018, vol. 70, pp. 61–72. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2018.08.003
  27. Mackintosh N.J. IQ and human intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. 419 p.
  28. Marini V.A., Kurtz J.E. Birth order differences in normal personality traits: Perspectives from within and outside the family. Personality and Individual Differences, 2011, vol. 51, no. 8, pp. 910–914. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.07.019
  29. Michalski R.L., Shackelford T.K. An attempted replication of the relationships between birth order and personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 2002, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 182–188. doi:10.1006/jrpe.2001.2350
  30. Dixon M.M. et al. Personality and birth order in large families. Personality and Individual Differences, 2008, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 119–128. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2007.07.015
  31. Price J. Parent-child quality time: does birth order matter? Journal of Human Resources, 2008, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 240–265. doi:10.3368/jhr.43.1.240
  32. Prime H., Plamondon A., Jenkins J.M. Birth order and preschool children’s cooperative abilities: A within-family analysis. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2017, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 392–405. doi:10.1111/bjdp.12180
  33. Steelman L.C. et al. Reconsidering the effects of sibling configuration: Recent advances and challenges. Annual Review of Sociology, 2002, vol. 28, pp. 243–269. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.28.111301.093304
  34. Rodgers J.L. et al. Resolving the debate over birth order, family size, and intelligence. American Psychologist, 2000, vol. 55, no. 6, pp. 599—612. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.6.599
  35. Retherford R.D., Sewell W.H. Birth order and intelligence: Further tests of the confluence model [Elektronnyi resurs]. American Sociological Review, 1991, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 141–158. URL: (Accessed: 13.06.2019).
  36. Baer M. et al. Revisiting the Birth Order–Creativity Connection: The Role of Sibling Constellation. Creativity Research Journal, 2005, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 67–77. doi:10.1207/s15326934crj1701_6
  37. Rodgers J.L. Are birth order effects on intelligence really Flynn Effects? Reinterpreting Belmont and Marolla 40 years later. Intelligence, 2014, vol. 42, pp. 128–133. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2013.08.004
  38. Rodgers J.L. What Causes Birth Order-Intelligence Patterns? The Admixture Hypothesis, Revived. American Psychologist, 2001, vol. 56, no. 6/7, pp. 505–510. doi:10.1037//0003-066X.56.6-7.505
  39. Salmon C. Birth order and relationships Family, Friends, and Sexual Partners. Human Nature, 2003, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 73–88. doi:1045-6767/03/$1.00+.10
  40. Salmon C.A. On the Impact of Sex and Birth Order on Contact with Kin [Elektronnyi resurs]. Human Nature, 1999, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 183–197. URL: (Accessed: 13.06.2019).
  41. Salmon C.A. The Evocative Nature of Kin Terminology in Political Rhetoric. Politics and the Life Sciences, 1998, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 51–57. doi:10.1017/S0730938400025351
  42. Salmon C.A., Daly M. Birth Order on Familial Sentiment: Middleborns Are Different. Evolution and Human Behavior, 1998, vol. 19, no. 5, pp. 299–312. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(98)00022-1
  43. Sulloway F. Born to rebel and its critics. Politics and the Life Sciences, 2000, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 181–202. doi:10.1017/S0730938400014817
  44. Sulloway F. Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives. New York: Pantheon, 1996. 653 p.
  45. Sulloway F.J. Birth Order. Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology, 2017, pp. 149–158. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-809324-5.06133-2
  46. Sulloway F.J. Birth Order and Evolutionary Psychology: A Meta-Analytic Overview. Psychological Inquiry, 1995, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 75–80. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0601_15
  47. Sulloway F.J. Sibling-order Effects. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition, 2015, pp. 923–927.
  48. Sulloway F.J., Zweigenhaft R.L. Birth order and risk taking in athletics: A meta-analysis and study of major league baseball. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2010, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 402–416. doi:10.1177/1088868310361241
  49. Wichman A.L., Rodgers J.L., MacCallum R.C. A multilevel approach to the relationship between birth order and intelligence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2006, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 117–127. doi:10.1177/0146167205279581
  50. Zajonc R.B., Markus H., Markus G.B. The birth order puzzle. Journal of personality and social psychology, 1979, vol. 37, no. 8, pp. 1325–1341. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.37.8.1325

Information About the Authors

Nadezhda M. Lapteva, PhD in Psychology, Research Associate, the laboratory of Psychology and Psychophysiology of Creativity, Institute of Psychology of Russian Academy of Science, Research Associate, the laboratory for the Study of Cognitive and Communicative Processes in Adolescents and Young Adults while Solving Game and Educational Problems using Digital Environments, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Ekaterina A. Valueva, PhD in Psychology, Research Fellow, The Laboratory of the Psychology and Psychophysiology of Creativity, Institute of Psychology of RAS, Leading Research Fellow, Center of Applied Psychological and Pedagogical Studies, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Elena A. Shepeleva, PhD in Psychology, Senior Research Fellow of the Sector "Center for Cognitive Research of the Digital Educational Environment" CIRCC, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 2752
Previous month: 17
Current month: 20


Total: 1679
Previous month: 37
Current month: 25