I have been part of almost every concievable family structure. With two older brothers, I am a youngest child, and have been known to be spoilt, selfish, highly competitive and ambitious. Being my late fathers only offspring, and being the only kid at home from the age of 9 (on and off) I am only child and oldest child rolled into one. This explains the bossiness, the perfectionism, the importance of my friends to me, and the leadership capabilities. For a short while in my life, I inherited a ready made step family, and became middle child. (My least favourite of the bunch.) I suppose that can explain the tags of insecurity and strong desire to sort out conflict. I’m yet to discover any long lost twin.
There is a lot of discussion on whether your placement in your family and the gaps between siblings makes a difference in how you grow up. If the gaps are too small, will the oldest feel ignored? If the gaps are too big will he be spoilt? If you wait a bit longer will the youngest be babied? If you have an odd number will one feel left out?
Personally I find all these theories a little laughable. If you scour the web, you will find lists of great leaders who are only children or firstborns, serial killers who were middle kids, and nobodies claiming this is down to their youngest placement in their family. If I wanted to I’m sure I could find enough personalities in the world to prove the exact opposite can also be true. I believe that the only part that a childs place in the family can play is the expectations they have on their own personalities and the way society expects them to treat themselves.
Any other explanation surely takes away your own free choice to be the person you want to be. If you are going to blame your pitfalls on your number in the household, your successes must be given the same source. Instead, take the responsibility on yourself. Worried that your bossiness as oldest child is holding you back? Change it. Take a step back, try and let others take the lead. Ignored as a middle child? Find where you shine and grab it with both hands.
As for parents, I think the desire to blame the shortcomings of your children on anything and everything outside of yourself can be too strong. Some situations are certainly harder to deal with, as I often feel when I see people who have incredibly small gaps or many multiple births. But the way your kids are brought up, and the way they get along with one another, is nothing to do with the age gaps or placement. It is everything to do with the way you bring them up and the morals and guidelines which they live their life with. One of the reasons I could watch Jo Frost supernanny all day every day, is how she almost always sorts out the famillies she visits by transforming the parents outlook and actions.
When I was younger, my eldest brother used to play games with me. Imagination play, board games, teaching me things.. I loved having such an older brother. Over 11 years between us meant that no matter how ‘young’ he really was, he always seemed grown up to me. I even forgave him most of the time for the deadpan lies he ‘taught’ me and encouraged me to repeat to friends and family. Boys.
My point is that the eleven year gap didnt and doesnt make a difference in terms of closeness. Similarly, I know many siblings with ‘perfect’ 2 or 3 year age gaps who can’t bear to be in the same room as each other. I think there is too much pressure. Only you know what is right for your family, and only you have to live and deal with your own children. We are told that Yaakov and Esav were brought up exactly the same way, and yet one grew up evil and one good. This shows us that you are not meant to do exactly the same for each child, and even two kids growing up at the same time with the same treatment can grow up as polar opposites.
As I have been blessed with so many different family types in one, maybe I am looking at everything too simply. But in my eyes at least, the only ‘personality syndrome’ that comes from your family structure, are the ones that you give yourselves.