Is Birth Order really Important in Peer Relationship?

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The primary objective of the research was to develop a theory regarding the importance of peer relationships among the oldest and youngest children. The question the scholars ask in the title is whether birth order is important in peer relationships. Therefore, the objective is met by applying the key concepts of Adler’s birth order theory focusing only on two birth order situations for comparison purposes. Another objective of the research is to make significant contributions to the wider body of literature. The researchers acknowledge that Adler’s theory has been studied for decades and that recent empirical data could make critical contributions that can keep the theory relevant.

Key Theoretical Concepts

The key theoretical concepts in the research revolve around the birth order theory. Firstly, the research discusses the two birth order situations targeted in the research and their implications on peer relations. The first-born children are described as being different from the rest since they experience the trauma of the arrival of siblings. The feeling of being dethroned changes the situation from monopolizing their parents in the early years to become like the parent and start obeying rules. The youngest child, similar to all middle children, never has such a monopoly, which means that they are never dethroned. Secondly, the personality characteristics associated with the birth order situations are discussed. When encountering a discussion, the two-birth order situation differs across in their management preferences, either by force or persuasion. In terms of approval, the child either makes an effort to receive approval or reacts to the failure to receive the approval. Other characteristics explored are unresponsiveness and drawing attention and how they differ across the two birth orders.

Relevance of the Research

The research is relevant to the class topic of individual psychology, which can be described as a body of theories spearheaded by Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychiatrist. Adler believed that the main motives of human thought and behavior are the result of the individual striving for power and superiority, partly in compensation for one’s feelings of inferiority. The research focuses on one of the theories, birth order theory, which posits that different positions in a family birth order are correlated to both negative and positive life outcomes. In this case, the focus is on peer relations, where the research explores how birth order theory defines peer relationships among first-born children and the youngest child in a family. Therefore, the research is relevant to the class topic since it describes one of the essential theories of individual psychology.

Research Hypothesis

Even though not expressly stated, the research hypotheses have manifested themselves in the presumptions made by the researchers while laying the foundation for the current study. First, the researchers hypothesize that both the sibling relationship and birth order tend to affect the formation of the family structure. Such a statement is based on the main theoretical foundation of Adler’s birth order theory, where sibling relationships are influenced by the position they hold in the birth order. Additionally, the researchers hypothesize that the presence of siblings affects the development of others, which is simply a summary of the position held by the birth order theory, especially regarding how personalities develop. Other statements that can be regarded as hypotheses include that birth order is closely related to the relationships among siblings and that the affective framework determines behaviors, attitudes, and sibling relations.

Independent Variable(s)

The key concepts described earlier also form part of the independent variables. The rationale is that birth order situations are the key traits of the children being investigated. These situations are responsible for influencing the primary dependent variable under investigation. The mechanisms by which the birth order situation work are summarized in the birth order personality characteristics, which makes management, approval, unresponsiveness, and drawing attention part of the independent variables. For example, the youngest child is used to facing older siblings, which means that their peer relations are characterized by management with force. The first and the youngest children are seen to be at two extremes with different personalities and the need to compensate for their own weaknesses. These compensations determine their personalities and their relationships with their peers.

Dependent Variable(s)

The dependent variable is the peer relationships among children in a classroom setting. The independent variables described in the previous slide have all been used as the key determinants of how peers relate with each other. In this case, the peer relations have been described using several behaviors observed during the study. For example, social interest is developed from the need for acceptance, which differs across birth order. Other behaviors include selfishness, where only children in a family display the greatest degree of this trait. Competition is another behavioral trait affected by the independent variables, where the siblings tend to compete with the rest for such elements as approval and attention. All these behaviors are manifested in peer relationships as a reflection of personalities developed within the home setting.

Methodological Designs

The methodological designs are founded on the grounded theory, which focuses on the social processes and interactions under definite environments or contexts. This is contrary to those designs that explore meaning and experiences of participants about a particular phenomenon. The grounded theory necessitates the use of an ethnography, which entails studying the respondents in their natural settings. Ethnography allowed the researchers to conduct in-depth observations in a natural classroom setting. In terms of data analysis, the scholars proposed to use open and axial coding, where the former can be described as the process where a researcher reduces the bulk of data into more manageable units. In this case, single events, objects, interactions or actions are identified and investigated. Axial coding entails discovering concepts in the open coding.

Summary of Results

The findings included the observation that only children in the classroom often sought the approval of their peers in their relationships. The rationale is that having been brought up without siblings, the only children lacked important social skills, which necessitated their social interests. The main findings have focused on the oldest and youngest siblings. In a nutshell, all the findings have mirrored the theoretical provisions of Adler’s birth order theory. In other words, the youngest children have been found to compete with their peers for the teacher’s interest and attention. As for the older siblings, the findings indicated that they sought attention to compensate for the loss of interest in their own families due to the presence of other siblings. Additionally, the oldest children often experienced the feeling of dethronement and acted responsibly and obediently.

Implications of Research Findings

The implications of the findings have not been discussed in the research. However, they can be derived from the discussion and the general conclusion sections. The first implication is that birth order tends to affect peer relations, which answers the question posed in the title. This confirmation is obtained from classroom observation, where the position of a child in the birth order influences how he or she interacts with peers. In this regard, another implication inferred from the research is that the family dynamics caused by birth order affect peer relations. For the eldest children, the lack of attention at home forces them to seek it at school in the classroom. Another derivative implication is that the oldest and youngest siblings seek attention for different reasons. For example, the oldest needs to compensate for dethronement, while the youngest competes for attention to compensate for an inferiority complex.


The researchers have expressed two major limitations they faced during the study. The first limitation was regarding ethical considerations, where the scholars expressed that the research sample included no middle sibling. As a result, generalization of the findings is not possible across all the birth order situations. Additionally, the qualitative nature of the study also negatively affects generalization. The rationale is that qualitative studies often deploy smaller samples and hardly represent entire populations. The second limitation entailed the assessment and outcomes of the theory. Firstly, scholars acknowledge that it is impossible for theories to explain every event. Secondly, each event may not always confirm the theories. In other words, the researchers are worried that even if the findings confirm Adler’s theory, the events observed during the study do not necessarily validate the theory or are effectively explained by the theory.

Direction for Future Research

The directions for future research have not been explained in the study. However, these can be described from the observed limitations. For instance, scholars question the absence of middle siblings, which means that future studies should make sure to include this group of children. In the second limitation, the scholars explain that theories do not always explain events and events do not always confirm theories. Therefore, future research should ensure that all factors affecting certain behaviors should be factored in to eliminate these doubts. Control groups in studies could use other variables or eliminate the possibility of other influences. In such cases, the events could be explained by the selected theories. Additionally, Adler’s theory can be examined alongside alternative theoretical foundations that explain the same behaviors and life outcomes. Lastly, the qualitative approach used made generalization difficult, which means that future studies should opt for quantitative approaches.

Discussion Questions

The two discussion questions are derived from the perceived shortcomings of the study. For example, Coşkun et al. chose to work with primary school children. However, even older populations engage in peer relations and interactions, which could also be affected by Adler’s theory (12). Therefore, an important discussion question is whether the findings from Coşkun et al. are specific to certain populations or apply across all ages. Another interesting discussion question entails people from the same birth order. Coşkun et al. have sought to compare peer relations among the oldest and youngest children, with a significant inclusion of the only children. However, it would be interesting to explore how individuals from the same birth order situation relate to each other. Comparisons across different birth situations may also be made to highlight the potential differences.

Work Cited

Coşkun, Kerem, et al. “Is Birth Order really Important in Peer Relationship? A Grounded Theory Approach.” Cogent Education, vol. 4, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-13.

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PsychologyWriting. "Is Birth Order really Important in Peer Relationship?" March 16, 2023.