Looking for True Love? Consider Birth Order, Says Author

Birth order can help determine compatibility, according to a new book.

ByKIM CAROLLO, ABC News Medical Unit
February 10, 2011, 2:20 PM

Feb. 11, 2011— -- "Fun-loving, raven-haired beauty who loves good food and good wine looking for a guy with a great sense of humor who loves the outdoors. Last-borns only."

If author Linda Blair is right, anyone looking for a compatible romantic partner will consider another important trait in addition to a sense of humor, sensitivity and a nice career: birth order.

In her new book, "Birth Order: What Your Position in the Family Really Tells You About Your Character," author and psychologist Blair says whether a person is a first-born, a second-born, lower down or a last-born can say a lot about a personality and in turn, can help determine whether two people are a suitable match.

"Each of these birth-order positions has specific characteristics. Not only are they likely to apply to your new boyfriend, but they also apply to you," Blair wrote in a book excerpt published in the British newspaper the Daily Mail.

As an example, Blair says that two first-borns could make a volatile partnership.

"Among the most difficult partnerships are those between two first-borns. If you're both highly competitive, conflict is very likely when both of you want to be in charge," Blair writes.

Other psychologists aren't so sure about how much of a role birth order should play in finding a life partner, and some even say that birth order doesn't play much of a role at all in who a person becomes. Other mitigating factors are more important.

There have been a number of studies that looked at the role of birth order on intelligence and social traits. Some studies found that first-born children tended to be more intelligent than later-borns, while other studies found no relationship at all. Other research showed first-born children accepted more responsibility and are more self-confident. Birth order research goes back centuries.

"Starting in the 1800s, people started to assume that birth order is really important," said Toni Falbo, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. "Sometimes the beliefs were built upon historical customs at the time. For example, in England, first-born sons inherited everything and everyone else got nothing."

More modern studies found that first-born children started talking earlier and were more achievement-oriented. In the 1990s, researchers pointed out that 21 of the first 23 American astronauts and 52 percent of presidents were first-born or only children.

Alan Hilfer, a psychologist and director of internship training at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., says in his experience, birth order does reflect a pattern of traits.

"First-born kids tend to be more outspoken. They often had a lot of attention on their own. A lot of stimulation means a lot of expectations put into them by their parents," he says.

Second-born kids, on the other hand, are more used to sharing and accustomed to negotiating and recognizing they may not always get what they want.

While he says he sees these patterns a lot, they don't always hold, and there are a lot of factors that could account for the differences.

"There are so many mitigating variables, like whether it's a single-parent family, and whether a later-born child is gifted or athletic. It's very hard to make a blanket statement."

"Such effects are minuscule and can be explained by the fact that first-borns come from families that are smaller, and more likely to be higher in social class, than the families in which later-borns are raised," said Frank Sulloway with the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley.

Hilfer also says the points in Blair's book are probably on target but stresses that birth order shouldn't be a factor in finding the love of one's life.

"I don't think people should use birth order to choose a person to fall in love with."

Others find that the book relies too much on generalizations that can mislead.

"For example, she says that last-born are often are somewhat dependent, and that is true, but there's a lot of misguidance in her directing about birth order matching other birth orders and making them compatible couples," says Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills, Calif., family and relationship psychotherapist who is also author of "The Self-Aware Parent."

The University of Texas at Austin's Falbo said birth order doesn't have as much of an impact as others believe it does.

"We like to think of birth order as being really important. It's like astrology -- we can read the forecast and think maybe we get something out of it," she says.

"By no means does [birth order] explain so much else that comes from our families of origin, 'our baggage,' that we take with us," said Sharon O'Neill, a psychotherapist from Westchester County, N.Y. ,and author of "A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage."

Rather than focus on factors like birth order, experts suggest relying on something much more important.

"Nothing matters when you fall in love. Throw all caution to the wind when that happens," said Hilfer.

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