First-borns are NOT natural rebels, study finds

Birth order does not affect personality, a new study claims.

For decades, psychologists have flip-flopped on this debate, ignited by middle-child and psychotherapist Alfred Adler, who wrote in the 1920s that older children are desperate for their parents' approval with success, middle children are independent and healthy, and youngest children are outgoing.

This was reignited by the book Born To Rebel in 1998, in which psychologist (and third-born) Frank J Sulloway declared first-borns naturally adhere to status quo, while the younger are risk-takers.

These days, sibling status is brought into everything - from parenting books to life coaching to business consultancy to horoscopes.

Where you fall in the line-up - or whether there is a line-up at all - is held up as being paramount to your life, career, and destiny.

But according to a new report, published this week in the journal PNAS, the theory just doesn't stand up against the overwhelming evidence that suggests birth order has nothing to do with your risk-taking tendencies whatsoever.

Joseph Stalin (only child who two older brothers died before he was born)

Che Guevara (oldest of five)

Birth order theory has long rested on examples of historical rebels, suggesting that younger siblings are more likely to be risk-takers to carve out their position in the family. A new study looked at data on 12,500 people, and also looked at the birth order of 157 famous explorers and revolutionaries, including Che Guevara (oldest of five) and Joseph Stalin (only child)

Previous studies cited Harriet Tubman (who had four older siblings and four younger) as an example of a younger/middle child who fought for her place in the family and society. But the new study says that perspective is cherry-picking

Christopher Columbus was the oldest of five brothers

Previous studies cited Harriet Tubman (who had four older siblings and four younger) as an example of a younger/middle child who fought for her place in the family and society. But the new study says that perspective is cherry-picking. For example, Christopher Columbus (right) was the oldest of five brothers

The researchers at Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin analyzed a database of 84 explorers and 103 revolutionaries to see if they, as risk-takers, had older siblings.

It was a nod to Frank Sulloway, who had used first-born historical figures as evidence of his theory, citing Charles Darwin (five out six children) and Harriet Tubman (who had four older siblings, and four younger). 

They also looked at two contemporary, original data-sets: questionnaires from 1,507 'siblinged' people who had taken the Basel-Berlin Risk Study; and data on 11,000 families in the German Socio-Economic Panel, a

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