Firstborns Motivated To Learn, Secondborns Motivated To Win?

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New research claims firstborns are be more motivated to learn, while secondborns are more motivated to win, reports Rachel Lowry of Deseret News:
 
“The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, examined almost 400 students. It found that birth order can be a lens through which first and secondborns see the world, in ways that impact their motivation and likelihood of career and personal success (though the roles often can be reversed with patience and practice).”

Curious to learn more, I looked at the study itself. Led by Bernd Carette of Ghent University in Belgium, the abstract reads in part:

“Using different analytic approaches, we show that birth order lies at the heart of people’s goal preferences as we consistently found that firstborns have developed a preference for mastery goals (which are based on self-referenced standards of competence), whereas secondborns haved eveloped a preference for performance goals (which are based on other-referenced standards of competence). These findings may help explain why people differently define, experience, and respond to competence-relevant situations, including the workplace, the classroom, and the ball field.”) (Read more here.)

I’m skeptical in general of birth order theories. The best comment I can remember reading about them is that, while one’s position in the family certainly does affect one’s experiences growing up, it doesn’t affect personality or outlook in any predictable way. That is, while birth order matters in each individual case, it doesn’t allow us to make sweeping generalizations across individuals.

Rachel Lowry, author of the Deseret News article, makes another important point in quoting Toni Falbo, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas: “Most of the variants or factors that contribute to any particular outcome at any one time—such as socioeconomic status or health—are outside of birth order,” says Falbo. “These are sorts of issues that have more direct connections to outcomes than whether you were second of three.” (Read more here.)

But let’s hear from you—do you feel that you were affected by your position among your siblings, and do you see regularities among the firstborns and secondborns you know?

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5 Responses to “Firstborns Motivated To Learn, Secondborns Motivated To Win?”

  1. [...] for the classroom? New research shows that first-borns are motivated to learn, while second-borns are motivated to win. (Annie Murphy [...]

  2. Maybe second born children have the benefit of having learned from their older siblings. In addition they don’t get the same attention that a first born did in some cases. Not because parents love them less but everyone dotes on their first born because they are novice parents and learning what to do. I agree with you that it is purely anecdotal in most cases. Just a thought.

  3. [...] “I’m skeptical in general of birth order theories. The best comment I can remember reading about them is that, while one’s position in the family certainly does affect one’s experiences growing up, it doesn’t affect personality or outlook in any predictable way,” she wrote in a recent blog post. [...]

  4. Steve fulthorpe says:

    It’s all in the mindset!
    Seems quite natural that a second child will be more competitive than a first, lets face it having to compete for love, time, attention and resources from the day you are born must have an impact on your attitude, values and beliefs. Whereas, a first child has it all handed to them on a plate, with enough time as an only child to consolidate their place as the no.1

    This phenomena becomes even more apparent when a second child becomes a middle child, usurped now by the new baby and all. Got to feel for them/me!!

  5. E. Castro says:

    Birth order is powerful but it is not the order per-se, but the interaction between the parent and each child in the family. As such, this model allows for a family to have multiple “first-born” children, for example, if certain parent-child dynamics repeat themselves.

    Dr. Kevin Leman has written several books on the subject and shares this model in a way that makes sense.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500172_162-511694.html

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