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Birth Order and Divorce Risk: Is there a link?

Does the Know-it-All big sis have a greater risk of getting divorced than the fun-loving youngest? How about a marriage between two middle children? Is there a birth order and divorce link?

Psychologists often point to peculiar birth-order traits that help explain how some siblings’ personalities and relationships are shaped by the order in which they came into the family. Obviously, birth order studies are not an exact science. But there are enough commonalities that it’s worth a look into how birth order may impact adult relationships – including marriage and divorce.

birth order and divorceFirst, here are some typical characteristics of each sibling according to the article The Birth Order Effect by

  • First-Born: Reliable; Conscientious; Structured; Cautious; Controlling; and Achieving.
  • Middle Children: People-Pleasing; Somewhat Rebellious; Good Friend; Peacemaker; and Social.
  • The Baby: Fun-loving; Uncomplicated; Manipulative; Attention-Seeking; Outgoing; and Self-Centered
  • The Only: Mature; Perfectionist; Leaders; Diligent; Demanding; and Self-Assured

Keep in mind, that there are often variations in that can cause birth order to swap. Say for instance, the first-born is emotionally or mentally challenged, the middle may take on the first-born role. Likewise, if a youngest dies, another sibling may fill that laugh-at-all-costs role.

So, how does birth order impact marriage success in later years?

According to Kevin Leman’s article, “How Birth Order Affects your Marriage,” there are three general rules of thumb for birth order relationships – Firstborns rule. Middleborns Mediate. Lastborns Charm.

As long as both spouses understand their personality type and relationship role, it doesn’t really matter who marries whom. It’s when the oldest doesn’t know that she’s bossy and controlling or when the baby isn’t getting the level of attention that he requires that things go awry. So yes, it is possible that birth order and divorce risk may be linked.

Levan says of a firstborn+firstborn matchup, “It’s inevitable that two firstborns — perfectionists with a need for control — will bump heads.”

He goes on to detail highlights and lowlights for each matchup including, “Firstborns provide structure, goals and organization that is often lacking in lastborns, and lastborns heighten the much-needed fun quotient for overly serious firstborns.”

And of the dual last-born relationship, “Like otters in a stream, youngest children like to play, but life requires some structure, detail and attention to the mundane, such as paying bills.”

Birth Order and Divorce Risk

A Norwegian study suggests, “Unions of individuals with different birth orders have been suggested to be more stable than those of individuals with the same birth order.”
Spouses with different personalities tend to compliment each other. Whereas same-birth-order spouses may create conflict. It’s no surprise then that according to the study, “Our results indicate that there is an effect of birth order on divorce risk. It is evident from our estimations that single children run a lower risk of dissolving their marriages. Marriages between two first-borns are the most unstable relationships, whereas marriages between two only children are the most stable.”

In a demonstration of just how subjective birth-order studies can be, another family counselor, John Curtis, PhD, writes, ““The highest divorce rates are when an only child marries an only child,” said Curtis. “It makes sense when you think about it. An only child is used to being the center of attention. And when the only child marries another only child, usually it’s hard for them to share the spotlight.”
Curtis suggests in the Divorce360 article, “Two First-borns? Bad match?” “The most successful marriages are those where the oldest sister of brothers marries the youngest brother of sisters.”

Big Families and Divorce Risk

Regardless of birth order, children who grew up in a family with lots of siblings, tend to get divorced less frequently. Family dynamics help people develop interpersonal skills for navigating marriage as adults, according to the article, “Big Families May Be the Best Way to Avoid Divorce.”

Time Correspondent Alexandra Sifferlin @acsifferlin writes, “In the latest research presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, scientists from Ohio State found that the more siblings you have, the lower your risk of getting divorced as an adult.”

The one common theme to many studies and articles about birth order and divorce is the importance of knowing yourself and your loved one. Being aware of your strengths and weakness as well as your partner’s allows you to be considerate of each other’s needs. And instead of being competitive, it may bring out greater compassion.

“I see every different combination of birth-order couples coming to me for help with divorce,” said experienced Howell Divorce Lawyer Kathryn Wayne-Spindler. “When it comes down to it, birth-order doesn’t cause divorce. Regardless of the source, unresolved conflict causes divorce. And sometimes, when the conflict overwhelms all else, divorce is the answer.”

For help with a Michigan divorce, contact experienced Howell Divorce Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler in Milford, Michigan. The law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates handles cases throughout Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston counties. The attorneys help clients in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Commerce; Waterford; Walled Lake; Howell; South Lyon; New Hudson; Grand Blanc; Linden; Holly and many more local communities.

Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long, Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates