Birth Order and Aggressive Behavior Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 11 July 2016

Birth Order and Aggressive Behavior


The purpose of this research is to determine if birth order correlates to a demonstration of aggressiveness in kindergarten aged children. It is hypothesized that middle born children will demonstrate the most aggressive tendencies, last born children would experience less than the first born, and only children would have the least when compared to all other birth orders. This quasi-experimental methodology will involve a field study of children from the ten kindergarten classes at the Seoul American Elementary School (SAES). Teachers will be asked to complete the Child Behavior Scale (CBS) inventory on each child, used to measure six behavior categories related to aggression. Each CBS inventory will include birth data for the student whose behavior was observed. The findings are expected to show a correlation between birth order and a tendency toward aggression.


Everyone who is born into a family arrives relative to other children who have already been born or will be at some point in the future or perhaps as an only child. Birth order does not permanently mark each child such as race or gender, but it can impact on the way a person responds to the environment. There have been a number of studies done on the relationship of birth order to personality, intelligence, anxiety and other characteristics with the belief that each child born into a family is treated differently based on their birth order, family interaction and subsequent challenges.

Some birth order theorists believe that a child’s position in the family greatly influences their personality characteristics which directly affect their behavior both inside and outside of the home (Morales). Not every theorist has the same view and there are those that believe a psychological birth order has more impact than the physical birth order on the development of personality characteristics (Campbell, White & Stewart, 1991).

In his book, Born to Rebel, Frank Sulloway describes how birth order influences our lives in many different ways from achievement to rebellion and from conformity to creativity (The Edge, 1998). While firstborns and laterborns are not much different in overall levels of creativity, the differences in how that creativity is exercised is very different. Firstborns are more likely to win the Nobel Prize by intellectual achievement within the system while the younger siblings will be more inclined to accept radical innovations in science and social though.

His findings showed that revolutionaries and those who supported them were disproportionately likely to be later-borns (Sulloway, 1999). While not every social scientist agreed with Sulloway’s research (Harris, 1995; e.g., Falbo, 1997 ), others conducted follow-up studies that confirmed the original findings (Zweigenhaft & Ammon, 2000), and Freese, Powell & Steelman discovered measures in addition to birth order to help explain reasons for various behaviors (1999).

This study hopes to build on previous research to determine whether a correlation exists between birth order and a child’s tendency to demonstrate aggressiveness.


Coordination with the Seoul American Elementary School (SAES), a Department of Defense Dependent School located on Yongsan Army Base, Yongsan, Seoul, Korea, will be done to get permission for the study. Permission from the school and the parents of the children selected will be obtained prior to the start of this study.


This study will be conducted in the classroom during normal school hours for all students attending the ten full day Kindergarten classes at SAES during a specified 30 day period of the school year. There will be approximately 360 students for this study with an equal number of girls and boys, with 45% of the class comprised of Asian-Americans, 20% African-Americans, 15% Latin-Americans and the remainder Caucasians.


Teachers will be provided the Child Behavior Scale (CBS) inventory as a means to assess aggressive, prosocial, and withdrawn behaviors of children ages 5-6 years of age. The CBS contains 59 items for which the teacher must respond using a 3-point response scale (1=doesn’t apply, 2=applies sometimes, 3=certainly applies) (Ladd & Profilet, 1996). The CBS measures six categories of behavior as follows: aggressiveness with peers, prosocial behavior with peers, exclusion by peers, asocial behavior with peers, hyperactive-distractible behavior, and anxious-fearful behavior. Copies of the CBS inventory and permission for its use will be obtained from its author, Dr. Gary Ladd, at Arizona State University (an email request has been sent copy of email attached).


Teachers from the 10 Kindergarten classes will observe their students for a specified 30 days during the school year, completing the CBS inventory for each student during that time. The teacher will indicate the birth order of the child on the completed inventory which will then be turned in to the SAES front office to be picked up by the study group.


The expected results will validate the hypothesis that middle born children will tend to demonstrate more aggressive behavior than either first born, last born or only children. Tables are expected to be used for this study and will include a listing of the CBS subscale items related to firstborn, middleborn, lastborn and onlyborn, further identified by girl and boy. An example follows:


Apart from the effects of birth order, there is little information about the ways in which the nonshared environment influences human development, mainly because psychologists have not been successful in developing direct measures of this environment. The challenge for future researchers lies in devising ways to test competing hypotheses that bear on the nature and influence of this elusive environment. Peer groups are an important aspect of this type of environmental influence, but so is the family environment and life experiences as well (Sulloway, 98).


Campbell, L., White, J., & Stewart, A. (1991). The relationship of psychological birth order to actual birth order. Individual Psychology, 47: 380-391.

Falbo, T. (1997). To rebel or not to rebel? Is this the birth order question? Contemporary Psychology, 42: 938-939.

Freese, J., Powell, B., Steelman, L.C., (1999). Rebel without a cause or effect: birth order and social attitudes. American Sociological Review, 64: 207-231.

Harris, Judith Rich. (1995). Where is the child’s environment? A group socialization theory of development. Psychological Review, 102: 458-89.

How is Personality Formed? A Talk with Frank J. Sulloway (1998). The Edge Foundation, Inc., Third Culture. Accessed on 13 Feb 2004 at: .

Ladd, G. & Profilet, S. (1996). The child behavior scale: A teacher-report measure of young children’s aggressive, withdrawn, and prosocial behaviors. Development Psychololgy, 32 (6), 1008-1024.

Morales, C. (1994). Birth Order Theory: A Case for Cooperative Learning. Journal of Instructional Psychology 21: 246-250.

Rubin, R. & Hubbard, J. (2003). Children’s verbalizations and cheating behavior during game playing: the role of sociometric status, aggression, and gender. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31: 65-78.

Solo, R., MacLin, M., (2002). Experimental Psychology. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Sulloway, F. (1999). “Birth Order” in Runco, M. & Pritzker, eds., Encyclopedia of Creativity, 1:189-202.

Zweigenhaft, R., Ammon, J., (2000). Birth Order and Civil Disobedience: A Test of Sulloway’s ‘Born to Rebel’ Hypothesis. Journal of Social Psychology, 140: 624-628.

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