Some Personal Perspectives

Oftentimes the best way to understand a concept as uniquely personal as the effects of birth order is to sit down and chat with those that have been affected by the concept in question.  The following is a set of interviews with several freshmen students at the University of Notre Dame.  Each interview took place sometime between March 1, 2010 and April 15, 2010.  For reasons of confidentiality, the names of those being interviewed may have been changed.

Emily Walters is a freshman student at Notre Dame.  She lives in Naperville, IL with both of her parents, her older brother Sam (21), and her younger sister Anne (16).  As the middle child in a family of three children, she has had several financial opportunities that were unavailable to her younger sister.

"I would say that the availability of financial resources as it relates to birth order has had the greatest effect on me and my siblings.  Growing up I loved to play the violin more than anything in the world.  From the school band to private lessons several times a week, the interest inevitably presented a financial burden on my parents.  And while it wasn't an apparent problem for me and my violin, it did present a dilemma for my younger sister.  You see, she loved to play the flute but she did not play nearly as much nor did she become nearly as talented as I was with the violin.  She was only allowed to play in the school band which was a result of our parents not wishing to dedicate the same kind of financial resources to her pursuits since now they had to support three minors.  So yeah, birth order has definitely affected my family and my sister's intellectual stimulation over the years."

Jack Ross is a freshman student at Notre Dame.  He lives in Little Rock, AR with both of his parents and his three younger siblings: Bobby (17), Sarah (15), and Daniel (12).  As the oldest child in his family and as a successful college student, Jack has found that his younger brother simply has not done as well in school as he personally did.  He believes this difference can be attributed to the amount of parental expectations and pressures each received as young children.

"That dreadful time consisting of touring the nation on college tours has come for my younger brother Bobby.  I remember when my dad took me to some of the best schools in the nation (Yale, Stanford, Notre Dame, etc.), attempting to find that 'perfect fit'.  Bobby, however, is just not quite up to that level.  Don't get me wrong, hes a good student and will end up at a great school but he just has not done as well in high school as I remember personally doing.  My earliest memories in life are those of my parents always lecturing me on how they would like me to perform this and that.  From academics to athletics, they made sure to be quite assertive with their opinions but always in an appropriate context.  And for whatever reason, I cannot recall many similar situations in which they lectured my brother in such a way.  In my case, my parents extreme pressures for the first born child have paved the way for some substantial differences between me and my younger siblings."
Mitch Williams is a freshman student at Notre Dame.  He lives in Buffalo, NY with both of his parents and his two older sisters: Erika (24) and Mary (20).  As the youngest child in his family, Mitch has found that he has the ability to get away with the most mischief; a difference that he attributes to the amount of parental attention each received as children.

"The interesting thing that I have found as a result of being the youngest in the family is that you can get away with a lot more (trouble).  When the first child in a family is born, the parents dedicate a certain amount of time to caring for and ensuring the proper rearing of that child.  Okay so when the second child is born, it is impossible for the parents to dedicate exactly twice as much time as they did before - there are simply not enough hours in the day for that kind of personal attention.  If you follow this pattern of decreasing parental attention, it becomes clear that usually the youngest children in a family have more time apart from their parents on a daily basis.  I'm not really sure as to how this has affected me on a developmental level, but it has definitely lessened the pressures placed upon me by my parents."
Jackie Comerford is a freshman student at Notre Dame.  She lives in Los Angeles, CA with both of her parents and her younger brother Dave (17) and her older sister Kelly (23).  Jackie is the middle child in a family of three children.  Similar to Mitch's case, Jackie attributes her older sisters academic achievement to the amount of parental attention she received as a child. 

"Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Notre Dame, but growing up in California, Stanford was my dream school.  Especially with my older sister Kelly well established as an undergraduate student there, I knew it would be an easy transition into college life.  Unfortunately, my grades just weren't good enough for what Stanford was looking for and not up to par relative to my sister's grades.  I don't know why exactly either.  I worked my (butt) off every day knowing that if I gave it everything I had, then I could probably get in.  My sister was just smarter than me - there is no other way around that.  And as so far as if birth order had an effect on this difference, I honestly don't know.  I guess it could be related to the amount of attention she got as child but I wasn't really around to tell you for sure.  I would say that of all the differences however, that was the main one"