Hello Story Empire friends, Gwen with you today to focus on character development related to birth order. Here’s a link to my prior post on this topic. Let’s dive in …

If you consider your most recent reads, I suspect several of those books include a family. We’re naturally drawn to the tensions, rivalries, and companionships of the characters because the inner dynamics of the fictional family sometimes mirror our own. Books like Little Women or Pride and Prejudice were and are hugely popular because of those dynamics—and, of course, great writing.

One aspect of family dynamics is birth order, and today’s focus is on the characteristics associated with the firstborn.

Villain or hero, there’s no denying the stereotypes—the bossy oldest sister or brother, the driven Type-A sibling, and the protector who takes charge. But there’s more. Digging into the research, I discovered documentable traits that might be useful for crafting our characters.

Here’s the shortlist. The eldest in the family (1) tends to be more independent. (2) They are often nurturing and (3) achievement oriented. (4) They like to learn and seek education, and (5) they are more likely to conform than their siblings.

Given the above, it’s no surprise that firstborns are often in leadership roles. Many of the CEOs and the majority of the U.S. presidents are the eldest among their siblings. Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush are prime examples. Love them or hate them, this is an interesting tidbit to consider when we build our stories.   

Of all the research on birth order, the firstborn is most extensively followed. There’s a reason, and it’s a valuable one for writers. Researchers associate the characteristics of the firstborn with the strict rules of novice parents. Fascinating, right? By the time the second, third, or more arrive, these same parents are too busy to impose those same rules—at least, to impose them as rigorously as they did for the first.

In a way, the firstborn shoulders the burden of their parents’ dreams of a perfect child. Those expectations, and the firstborn’s response to them, can be a great resource for writers. Themes of rebellion, drivenness, and success are just a few of the possibilities. It’s interesting to note that of the twenty-three astronauts in the United States, two were the “only” child, twenty-one were firstborn.

The birth order of our fictional characters can add depth to our stories, maybe even mystery. Looking into the research has given me a fuller understanding of my siblings and spun ideas for story writing. I hope my shares do the same for you. Next month I’ll focus on the middle child, the peacemakers of the family unit. We’ll see where that takes us.

I’d love to hear if you are like me, intrigued by the possibilities of birth order and character development. Let’s chat!

Until next month…


  1. I’m always interested in birth order discussions, Gwen. I’m a first born and some of this applies to me – achievement-oriented, independent. Nurturing – with animals and my kids, otherwise I don’t tend to be. I also rebelled against nearly every rule placed on me by my parents. Guess I was just one of those weird kids, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nope, doesn’t sound weird to me. I can ditto almost everything you mentioned. Of course, I’m a firstborn as well. 😊 Thank you for sharing, Teri. All smiles.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post – Birth order and nurture – the excitement for parents of having their first child, compounded with frequently prescriptive child rearing books they have the time to read..
    Orphans ? In a wonderful literary class of their own.
    Officially a ‘ firstborn’ – as the first child born to my birth mother, in reality, from newborn, I became my grandparents youngest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Esther, for this insight and suggestion. My husband’s mother was one of the many on the Orphan Trains. He knows nothing of her side of the family, except the sadness that accompanied that relocation process. We are all so complex, aren’t we? Thank you, again, for bringing up this important consideration for writers.


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  4. Interesting article regarding birth order. It comes into play with things like royalty where there is a hierachal system of who becomes the heir to the throne etc.

    I do find with the eldest, that while parents do place a lot more pressure on them to conform and succeed, there is also the attention given in other ways. As a middle child, I am aware that the number of photos, details written in the baby book and many milestones that my sister went through were immense and well documented, whereas when I was born such things became more scant as my parents got busier and the “shine” of having a child (a first child) was definitely over. lol

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  5. Fascinating! I’m a firstborn and was ticking off the characteristics as I went along! The study made a lot of sense to me and the statistics were staggering! Brilliant series, Gwen! ♥♥

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am finding this series to be quite intriguing, Gwen. I am the third born of four children. My older brother is the first born. My sister is the only girl. My little brother (passed away in 2010) was the baby. That puts me in the “nothing special” zone. I’m thinking it actually adds to my view of life–especially as I get older and am more aware of time and mortality. Family is such a unique experience for pretty much everybody. It’s interesting the way we can work these experiences into our fiction. I am really enjoying your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the series. Beem. I’m fascinated by the subject and learn a lot as I read the research. Thank you for sharing as you have.


  7. It’s fascinating to think about, Gwen. I’m one of just two boys, and we’re pretty far apart in age. My older brother has a lot of those characteristics, but I have a few. We were part of an extended family that was pretty close. I was the youngest grandchild, and I was spoiled by one grandmother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s fun to think about, isn’t it? With the span of years, it’s no wonder you have many of the traits of the eldest. Good for grandma, she kept you young at heart. 😊 Thank you for sharing, Dan.


  8. Hi Gwen, this post is interesting and aligns with what I have read about the characteristics of the eldest child in a family. I am the eldest of four children, all girls. I am very interested in learning more about the characteristics of middle and youngest children. All my characters to date have been eldest children.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing as you have, Robbie. I’m the eldest of three sisters and three brothers–and more than thirty first cousins. It’s no surprise that I ended up in college administration, in charge of all student problems. 😊 Life can be hilarious at times.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m a firstborn, Gwen, and the characteristics fit. A driven, over-achiever sounds familiar and something I’m constantly trying to temper as I have always put a lot of pressure on myself. I’ve been thinking back to my books and almost all of my characters are only children. One firstborn, one set of twins, and one orphan adopted into the middle of a big family (which I killed off early on). For me, limiting the number of siblings makes writing easier, and with fantasy, it’s fairly easy to get away with. What a thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Fascinating post, Gwen 🙂 So interesting that most of the astronauts were first borns. I realized all my best friends from school were first borns too. I have heard many times the first ones born get all the rules and attention. My husband was the youngest and I noticed what he got away with growing up and his older sisters would joke about it. My oldest born doesn’t completely fit this mold except for the rebellious part that is. This experience all does find its way into storories. I look forward to more posts.

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  11. This is a fascinating series. My husband had a friend whose father had 12 kids by his first wife. Then when she died, he had 10 more. HH’s friend never even met the older kids from the first batch. I wonder if the oldest of the second brood would be like a firstborn under the circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow…I can’t imagine having so many children. But I think you’re right about the oldest in the second brood, Judi. Certainly, he or she would have some of the traits. Thank you for sharing this unique story. Amazing. 😊


    • Thanks, Frank. I couldn’t agree more–about Myers Briggs and birth order. Both can help us in our character development. I’m so glad you like the topic.


  12. This series is fascinating, Gwen. Looking at my own family, it’s easy to see the firstborn syndrome. And I love the reference to the firstborn having to shoulder the burden of novice parents looking to do everything perfectly. This is so helpful in character development. We have so many choices with our characters, but for their personalities to be authentic, it helps to know their birth order. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I found myself nodding my head all through this post because, yes, I am a firstborn and relate to pretty much everything you wrote!
    I think I missed the previous post so I am off to see 🙂
    The “standing” or order in a family is definitely something to consider when writing, I should think!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so pleased the topic sparked your interest, Jill. Like you, I was unaware of the astronauts. Thank you for adding to the conversation. 😊


  14. This is interesting to me as both a sibling and a mother.

    From a fiction standpoint, I write families a lot. I’ve always focused on how life experiences and culture cultivated personalities. I think it would be a fascinating exercise to focus on birth order traits. I wonder if gender impacts these characteristics…

    Loving this series, Gwen.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Wow, that is so interesting about the U.S. astronauts, Gwen. That’s a pretty staggering statistic.
    This is a fascinating post and I agree that looking into birth order is a great way to approach character an family dynamics!

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s intriguing for me as well, Mae. And if we’re writing about family dynamics, it’s useful to consider for sure. Thank you for adding to the conversation on this topic.

      Liked by 2 people

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