in partnership
My sisters and I are a prime example of brith order analysis. (Image: Gretchen Bossio / Seattle Refined)

Quarantine & Birth Order: How each child copes differently

"Oh, you're such a firstborn!"

"Happy Middle Child Day... oh, you didn't notice? It's ok, no one did."

"The baby gets away with everything!"

Whether you're the first, middle or last born, you've likely heard quips about your place in your family's birth order your whole life. And, although they tend to be said in a joking manner, more often than not, there is some amount of truth in the generalizations.

I've always been fascinated by birth order and how it plays into personalities, character qualities and coping tendencies — perhaps because I'm part of a perfect case study. I was raised one of three girls; each of us spaced three years apart. Hence, we were a prime example of birth order analysis — firstborn, middle and last.

Dr. Kevin Leman, an American psychologist and bestselling author, has extensively studied how the order children are born into a family contributes to their personalities, relationships and careers. According to Leman, "Whether at home or on the job, birth order powerfully influences the way people interact with others" and situations.

Birth order, much like personality assessments, can be a spot-on generalization, not perfect, but delivering heavy tones of truth. Much like Meyers-Briggs and the Enneagram, birth order can reveal likely traits in a person. Especially in situations of stress when we tend to exhibit our truest selves. Like, for example, a global pandemic.

So, how does your birth order tie into your coping tendencies during quarantine? Let's take a hypothetical look through the lens of recent events.

Grocery Shopping

  • First: I'm meal planning (as always), but have started a list of things I should really stock up on. You can never be too prepared.
  • Middle: My older sibling told me all about the ease and efficiency of grocery pickup, so now that I can shop from home, I'm ordering for myself, grandma and our immunocompromised uncle. I'll pick it all up and deliver theirs with a handwritten note. Just trying to help where I can during these stressful times.
  • Last: Who needs the grocery store when you can get takeout? Or DoorDash! I have to see people somehow these days!

Staying at Home

  • First: Routine, routine, routine. You might want to stay in your pajamas all day, but we all know we feel better when we set an alarm and get ready. Plus, this is prime time to hit the DIY list hard. Am I right? I'm totally right.
  • Middle: This is the life — no agenda, lots of Netflix. I actually enjoy being in my space with nowhere to go. Don't tell anyone though; I wouldn't want to upset those who don't appreciate this downtime as I do.
  • Last: I may be having a secret party next weekend. We'll totally stay six feet apart and BYOB, so no need to stress!

Canceled Events

  • First: It's ok, I have a plan B and C and, well, we could always just bump the date to this weekend next year. I'll pencil it all in and keep you posted.
  • Middle: Stay home, stay healthy. Birthdays come around every year; I can sacrifice one.
  • Last: I have canceled 42 gatherings/parties/appointments. It kind of feels like I'm dying inside. Do you want to play cards over Zoom today?

Zoom Calls

  • First: Zoom calls are just part of the routine now! But please, follow the rules mute upon entry and signal the host via hand raise or chat when you need to speak.
  • Middle: I'll be there if you need me. It's just not the same, though.
  • Last: Darn, I missed another one. It was just that I was enjoying my midday nap! If we can play an icebreaker game at the beginning, I'll for sure make the next one!

Wearing Masks

  • First: It isn't hard to follow the rules — mask up! In fact, I've been sewing masks, do you need one?
  • Middle: Why are we fighting about masks? Let's just do what we have to do and keep the peace.
  • Last: Masks are the latest fashion accessory! I have a few now — work gave me one, I bought one from my favorite Etsy shop and my sister made me two in fabric I got to pick out!

Do you fall in line with your birth order tendencies in light of the current quarantine? There are definitely elements of truth, right? Firstborns filling the leadership role, middle children getting creative and acting as peacemakers and the babies of the family going with the flow as the life of the party.

There is no question that how we are raised influences who we become, and that is where birth order carries some weight. So, whether you have bread baking in the oven right now or are booking a vacation with high hopes of normalcy returning soon, pause and consider, is your birth order playing into your pandemic response?

Of course, not every family is a succinct three child breakdown when it comes to birth order analysis. Blended families introduce a whole new flair; only children tend to show mostly firstborn traits but can have glimpses of all depending on their parental interactions. Age gaps between siblings can heavily influence tendencies, even to the point of "restarting" with a firstborn in the middle of a line-up if there is significant spacing. Still, it's amusing to look at your family and see who matches or bucks their typical birth order trait(s).