Psychological Birth-Order Position/Birth-Order Vantage
Note: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). © 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
Adler was the first investigator in modem psychology to note the significance of psychological birth-order position in the development and dynamics of personality. Psychological birthorder position is the vantage from which the child perceives and evaluates self, others, and the world, and from which the child forms convictions about what is required of — as well as what is open to — him or her. It is distinguished from ordinal position in consideration of other factors contributing to the child's sense of place in the family, including gender, age differences, death, absence, or incapacity of a sibling. For example, a son born following the birth of a daughter (or daughters) may still be regarded as having a "first-born" position. The same may be true for a daughter born following the birth of a son (or sons). Where there is a large number of siblings the male and female children may enumerate themselves in separate categories as first, second, and third-born (etc.) sons or daughters. While Adler associated certain characteristics with each position, and these provide a framework for guessing, they are not to be considered as a way of typing the individuals in any one of the positions.
Unlike many other students of the individual's development in a family-of-origin, Adler went beyond attention to the importance of birth order, gender guiding lines, and other matters regularly regarded as influences upon the child. He also gave his attention to what is obvious, even though regularly overlooked, namely the influence of each child on the shape and character of the family constellation into which it is born.
It is a common fallacy to imagine that children of the same family are formed in the same environment. Of course there is much which is the same for all children in the same home, but the psychological situation of each child is individual and differs from that of others, because of the order of their succession (p. 376).
It is not, of course, the child's number. . . which influences his character, but the situation into which he is born and the way in which he interprets it (p. 377).
For a report and discussion of the White-Campbell Psychological Birth Order Inventory (1991) and the Birth Role Repertory Grid (1994), developed by White, J., Campbell, L., and Stewart A. E., see Oberst, U. E. & Stewart, A. E. (2003), pp. 170-181.
[Most general texts in Adlerian Psychology, especially those on parenting and child guidance, address the birth-order of the children, not all with the same emphases.]
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 84).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Oberst, U. E., & Stewart, A. E. (2003). Adlerian psychotherapy: An advanced approach to Individual Psychology. New York: Brunner-Routledge.Psychological Birth-order position/Birth order vantage point (PDF for enlarged viewing)