Does Birth Order Have an Impact on Procrastination?

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Brooke Holland, Editor

According to a study on college students in Eldoret, 20 firstborns, 20 middle children and 20 last borns were surveyed via a questionnaire on their likelihood to procrastinate. 55% of the total respondents claimed their birth order has an impact on their motivation to carry out tasks, but only 46.7% of the respondents actually procrastinate.  

Procrastination is the action in which one avoids doing a task that is deemed less intriguing or less enjoyable than the more urgent one at hand. For example, in a high school setting, this can be a student going to the mall with friends as opposed to working on their homework for a class. 

The developer of birth order research, Alfred Adler, claims each birth position (oldest, middle, youngest, etc.) has a specific set of personality traits unique to their order. According to Adler, first-born children are always the leaders, highest achieving, conforming and determined out of their siblings. These first-born children seek traditional ways to prove their efforts, such as through academic performance and positive behavior.

According to Paulhus, Trapnell, and Chen (1999), middle and last-born children are aware of this firstborn’s higher status, so the later born’s will pursue creative ways to outperform the oldest. The youngest of the siblings feel like they are taken less seriously in comparison with their older siblings, which results in them getting their own way almost all of the time. 

The middle child of three siblings is different than a middle child of a larger family because of how the middle children out of three total siblings find they need to fight for a higher status than the youngest, but in a larger family, that status is fought for less since the parents don’t have enough time to give all their children large and equal quantities of attention. 

So does birth order impact procrastination among children? 

According to Adler, firstborns are seen to be more academically achieving than their other siblings, which is due to a driven personality from that first-born birth order. This driven personality results in less negative behavior, so acting out in public places such as school is almost unheard of for these children. The determined personality trait comes from the nature of the birth order position, as Adler theorized. The ambitious, determined, high-achieving and conformed behavior of a first-born child directly affects the procrastination they may succumb to since they hardly ever allow themselves to get behind their younger siblings in terms of academics as well as their responsible behavior. 

In the study done on college students in Eldoret town, 17 out of the 20 firstborns claimed they never procrastinated over any of their tasks. This shows that procrastination among firstborns was at 1.7%, proving these children are less susceptible to avoiding their tasks. Middle children procrastinated more than firstborns, but less than last borns. For example, the study shows 11 out of the 20 respondents never procrastinate, but five respondents said it was an always occurring thing. For last borns, 4 out of the 20 respondents claimed they never procrastinate, while 13 claimed they always did. 

Although Adler claimed birth order and personality traits of those positions were the main cause of procrastination, it is also said that procrastination is impacted based on the parenting style. An authoritative parenting style demonstrated that among males and females, procrastination was at a low point. This is because this parenting style demands high academic achievement, responsible behavior and demands for child independence. Although authoritative parenting generally lowers procrastination among children, procrastination based on birth order also plays a part here. As mentioned previously, firstborn children are more likely to be leaders with determination. In an authoritative parenting setting, this behavior is encouraged and expected. However, since middle and last-born children are seeking creative ways to outperform the other, the personality traits specific to their birth order still plays a part in whether or not they will procrastinate. Last borns typically procrastinate the most, since they are taken less seriously by their siblings; therefore, they won’t feel like they need to perform to their highest potential like the firstborn does. 

Birth order does impact procrastination. Whether you are a firstborn, middle or last born child there are specific personality traits that you possess, which can directly affect your motivation. Although there are scenarios where firstborns may even be the biggest procrastinator in the family, they still have certain traits affecting themselves that the other siblings in their family may not have.