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Birth Order

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Introduction to Birth Order

In each family, children seek to be seen in unique ways. Each child tries to stake out as wide a territory as possible, leaving the later children increasingly smaller niches. The seven common positions are Authority, Love, Knowledge, Compassion, Eccentric, Integrator and Synthesist. The greatest discrepancy to this order occurs when the family does not handle emotions well. Frequently in this situation, there is no space for the Love position child, so they become the third position – Knowledge. This throws off all the following children in the family. Usually, we count all children that are together from infancy in a family dynamic. If there are breaks of more than five to ten years between children, it is possible that the sequence will restart. If it is more than ten years, it is highly likely that the sequence will start again at the Authority position.

Differences in the behavior of each child can be traced to the desire of the child to get the attention of his or her parents. This creates a sense of competition amongst siblings, which, for the most part, is unspoken and unexpressed. Since this is an instinctive process, it operates mostly unconsciously, coming to the surface only when there are disagreements with the parents. For the most part, birth order is not a major compatibility factor, but it does tend to bring out certain disagreements and comparisons with individuals who occupy a similar position in a different family. We end up projecting our past experiences with siblings onto others with the same birth order as in our own families.

The primary personality-shaping instinctive compatibility factor is effective birth order. Psychologists and researchers, such as Frank Salloway, Ph.D., have documented the different effects on siblings who grow up together. Because siblings share, on the average, only half of the same genes, then genetics are not the whole answer, leaving learned behaviors to explain the differences. Our research indicates that instinctive personality factors are produced based on the defensive styles of the parents, the natural spirit of the child, and different types of favoritism by parents and important adults. Salloway proposes that personality development occurs in a Darwinish manner—with each child developing a niche that distinguishes him or herself from the previous children.

The theory of natural selection is used to illustrate how children compete for attention and family resources. What is fascinating is that the niches across families share predictable behaviors and attributes that appear to correspond to effective birth order. While these roles are speculative, research on hundreds of cases has led us to suggest the following theoretical framework. It should also be noted that these factors may sometimes be reversed when parents reflect clear predispositions toward children who display their thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Before we present the Higher Alignment framework, it is important to first summarize some of Frank Salloway’s work. Investigation of over 125,000 individuals during the last 20 years has conclusively determined that birth order corresponds to the support and protection of the status quo, except when severe parental conflict is present. In other words, latterborns are typically revolutionaries, while the first and second-born work to maintain the status quo. The typical firstborn strategy is to defend their niche against their brothers and sisters. Galloway concludes that latterborns are more open to new experiences, having staked out those domains not filled by older siblings. Finally, his studies suggest that over time children have evolved instinctive motivational systems designed to maximize parental investment, and that birth order is a predictor of experience three times the magnitude of any other factor.

More About Effective Birth Order

The primary effect of birth order is the development of survival strategies, usually in the first 16 years of life. The goal of parental attention and investment dictates that firstborn children reflect and support parental desires and intentions (unless there is extreme conflict). A child will tend to meet the expectations of the parent; the parent will tend to visualize their firstborn as inheritors of the family name and reputation. The second-born will be seen as a person that connects with others strongly and loves to be affectionate and needed by others. The third-born they will see as knowledgeable, structured, capable and focused. The fourth-born is compassionate and supportive in the eyes of the typical parent, who visualizes them as caring and always there when they need them. The fifth child usually is seen and supported in their eccentricity and uniqueness. The sixth-born has the difficult role of integrating all the various sibling influences and showing new ways to combine them. Finally, the parent may view the seventh-born as a wild card, an unpredictable instigator and synthesizer, frequently speaking what the family is unconsciously feeling and thinking.

Why we call it effective Birth Order has to do with the real pecking order in a household. If a child dies, is incapacitated, or is removed effectively from family interactions (such as being raised by a relative in a different city), it is probably best not to count him or her. As such, a younger child would advance a rank. To make it easier to remember, we have named the first seven positions: 1) Authority, 2) Love, 3) Knowledge, 4) Compassion, 5) Eccentric, 6) Integrator, and 7) Synthesist. Each of these positions has a particular combination of strategies (attitudes, goals, and modes) it uses to gain acceptance and support. Currently our statistical success in matching families to this pattern is about 35%. Additional research could lead to improved guidelines and rules which may significantly increase our effectiveness. Please note that we can find in-depth coverage of Intellectual strategies (in the Attitudes Section), Emotional strategies (in the Goals Section), and Action strategies (in the Modes Section). Body types are covered in the previous section.


The Authority position takes responsibility for others, easily assumes leadership, focuses what needs to get done, and expresses confidence and optimism about their ability to solve problems. There are three flavors of the Authority position: 1) The first-born with lots of brothers and sisters that we take care of. We develop into protectors of the status quo and become more compliant with our parents. 2) First-borns with little influence over their siblings, with no apparent power granted to us by our parents. We develop into rebels and outcasts who try to prove that we know better than our parents how to do things. We can also become competitive, assertive, and aggressive as a way to be acknowledged. 3) First-borns who are only children. We have the greatest burden trying to be everything our parents want us to be, which is offset usually by being spoiled and coddled. We vacillate between responsible and not responsible. We like to think of ourselves as rebels, but are not really as rebellious as we appear. We do not develop as many socialization skills which can put us at a disadvantage in relationships.

Authority is the position usually assumed by the first-born. Born in the authority position, we are typically responsible and conservative, but assertive of our rights and needs. We seek the respect of others and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Intellectual Strategies— We typically adopt the Realist Attitude because of its focus and power. If we are unable to gain and negotiate leverage, we resort to the Pragmatist framework.
Emotional Strategies— Our favorite Goal is Dominance, but our backup is Growth, as it allows us to directly move forward.
Action Strategies— Our favorite Mode is Power, but we find it strategic to operate in Observation mode to notice the strengths and weaknesses of others.
Body Type Preferences— We feel most comfortable with either height or bulk, suggesting Quiet Authority, Sporty Action, or Group Anchor Body Types.
Clues to Recognizing a Firstborn— Authority types typically look independent, self-assured and have a sense of organizational intent. (Note: Watch how Firstborn individuals can express themselves optionally as rebels. The key is that Authorities do Status Quo or do Rebellion, which are both Self-directive.)

Examples of Firstborns: Madonna, Sigmund Freud, Jonas Salk, Winston Churchill, Robin Williams, Bobby Seale, Emma Thompson, Theodore Roosevelt, Gloria Estefan, Roberto Mussolini, Anita Bryant, Mao Tse Tung, John Kennedy, Antonio Banderas, Sandra Bullock, Isaac Newton, Alfred Hitchcock, Johannes Keppler, Fred Astaire, Brad Pitt, Will Wheaton, Louis Agussiz, George Cuvrer, Joseph Stalin, Andy Kaufman, Timothy Dalton, James Watson, Linus Paulling, Francis Cook, Galileo, John the Baptist, Marilyn Monroe, Mary Astor, George Gamov, Sammy Davis Jr., Leonardo DaVinci, Oscar Wilde, Charles Lindburgh, Einstein, Duchess of Windsor, Indira Ghandi, Picasso, Norman Mailer, George Washington, Lynden B. Johnson, Harry Truman, Leonard Bernstein, Henry Ford, Katherine Hepburn, Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Rose Kennedy, Glen L. Martin (aviation pioneer), Alfred Adler, Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom (astronaut), Bhudda, Mary Queen of Scots, Alice B. Toklas and Alexander Hamilton.


The Love position is the child that is forgiven for every transgression and in turn, forgives everyone for everything. Usually this position acts as peacemaker, healer and go-between that reconciles different family factions. Love is the position usually assumed by the second-born (although it is found in third-born when emotional expression is repressed in the household). Born in the love position, we are typically outwardly engaging, physically affectionate, relationship initiators. We tend to be easily accepted by large numbers of friends and know how to put everyone at ease in our presence.

• Intellectual Strategies— Our favorite attitude is Idealist, although over time we can become secretly Skeptical or Pragmatic as the situation demands.
Emotional Strategies— Our favorite Goals are Growth or Acceptance, depending on the focus and our need to be seen as leaders.
Action Strategies— Our favorite Mode is Passion, where we inspire others to commit themselves to something big, difficult or interesting to accomplish. Our natural enthusiasm and winning smiles are hypnotic and seductive.
Body Type Preferences— We are most at ease when we are not physically intimidating; therefore, Radiant Healer, Safe & Supportive with small touches of Sporty Action or Speed Communicator are the Body Type combinations we love.
Clues to Recognizing a Firstborn— We can be seen by our belief that we will be loved and accepted as we are. (Note: The more evolved we are, the more fluid we become.)

Examples of Second-borns: Jane Fonda, Jennie Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, Hubert Humphrey, Benjamin Disraeli, John Kennedy, John Q. Adams, Bernard Baruch, Herbert Hoover, Susan B. Anthony, Joan Baez, Kate Millett, Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde), Kathleen Norris, Liz Renay, Billy Bob Carter, Keanu Reeves, Warren Beatty, Charles Dickens, Michelle Pfeiffer, Annette Bening, Anne Boleyn, Billy Joel, Karen Horney, Ellen DeGeneres, David McCallum, Joan Chen, Lana Wood, James Belushi, Alexander von Humboldt and Anne of Cleves.


The Knowledge position gets seen for what we know. We are incredibly effective at ferreting out what is going on with all members of the family. We are usually the first ones called upon when people perceive there may be a problem in the family and want to confirm their suspicions. People feel comfortable with us and respect our opinions about what is really going on. Knowledge is the position usually assumed by the third child (although it is found in second-borns when intellectual merit is prized by the parents). Individuals born in the knowledge position excel at strategy, problem solving, quizzes and book learning. We distinguish ourselves by what we know, focus on our superior understanding, and feel generally not appreciated for our cleverness.

• Intellectual Strategies— Our favorite Attitude is Spiritualist, but we are found doing Idealist as well. This is because we are addicted to our “big ideas.” If we are not given enough attention, we can slide to Stoic or Skeptic.
Emotional Strategies— Our favorite Goal is Discrimination and occasionally Dominance, but both of these make it more difficult for our ideas to be accepted. Growth is the best overall emotional strategy to keep us moving.
Action Strategy— Observation is our natural mode of operation, but Power and Passion are natural allies in disseminating our ideas. If we are hurt repeatedly by expressing our ideas, we can adopt Caution and Reserve access to engage the world directly.
Body Type Preferences— We are most at ease with taller body types (such as Quiet Authority and Radiant Healer) unless we are heavily wounded by our upbringing. In such cases, we may adopt Speed Communicator, Group Anchor or Sporty Action body combinations.
Clues to Recognizing a Third-born— Knowledge types appear to be know-it-alls. We collect all kinds of information about people in order to have a way of connecting with them. (Note: The more evolved we are, the less we collect information to protect ourselves, and the more we do it to acknowledge others.)

Examples of Third-borns: Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, Patricia Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson, Rosie O’Donnell, Loretta Young, Judy Garland, Tom Hanks and Catherine Deneuve.


The Compassion position is usually the most sentimental of the siblings. We consistently use our passion to bring out the best in a situation. We are usually optimistic, preferring to see goodness in the people around us. We are typically easy-going and promote a sense of trust and faith in our capabilities. Compassion is the position usually assumed by the fourth child. Individuals born in compassion are typically caretakers for mankind in some way. We are good neighbors in times of crisis, support others without expectations of support in return. We are emphatic, open and want to be needed.

• Intellectual Strategies— Spiritualist is our favorite attitude, followed by Idealist. If we become disillusioned growing up, typically we will migrate to Stoic or Skeptic.
Emotional Strategies— Our typical goal is Acceptance, although Relaxation, Re-Evaluation and Submission (to a higher goal) are also favorites. Emotionally, we are connected to everyone around us, making life difficult and distracting when our friends are in crisis.
Action Strategies— Passion and Observation are our most effective Modes of operating. When we are overwhelmed, we can also be found in Reserve and Caution.
Body Type Preferences— We are most effective with feminine or receptive body types such as Safe & Supportive or Group Anchor. Radiant Healer is also common. Occasionally we may be Speed Communicator and Inner Brilliance combinations.
Clues to Recognizing a Fourth-born— Compassion types are easy going, patient and make others feel accepted wherever they are. (Note: The more evolved we are, the less we try to take care of people from a sense of duty or obligation.)

Examples of Fourth-borns: Pope John XXIII, Florence Nightingale, Mahatma Gandhi, Ralph Nader, Thomas Jefferson, Helen Deutch, Melanie Klein, K.D. Lang, Bing Crosby and Emile de Chatelet.


Eccentrics have to be seen as different from their siblings. We emphasize our unique character by pushing ourselves on others without their agreement or acceptance. Most of the time we are accepted by others as we are because otherwise we would become an even greater burden to be dealt with. The best circumstance arises when our uniqueness is needed by the family. This can promote a greater sense of love, bonding and acceptance within our family.

Eccentric is the position usually assumed by the fifth child. Born in the eccentric position, we use our uniqueness and differences to be seen, if not accepted. Our interests shock others into awareness by presenting the typically unthinkable options. We accomplish this with our contrarian mindset (what typical people think, eccentrics think the opposite). We are not usually understood, but at times are admired for our unabashed individuality.

• Intellectual Strategies— We love playing the cynic or skeptic but underneath we are closet idealists. Many of us operate with an attitude of Realist, but won’t be found operating as Pragmatists—that would mean selling out.
Emotional Strategies— We end up with goals of dominance, discrimination or even growth, taking a more independent emotional stance.
Action Strategies— We typically are assertive, with operating modes of aggression, perseverance and power, although we can be seen occasionally in observation mode.
Body Type Preferences— We prefer tall, focused body types such as Quiet Authority, Inner Brilliance or Radiant Healer. Occasionally we may be a Speed Communicator or Sporty Action combination to add different emphasis.
Clues to Recognizing a Fifth-born— An Eccentric is a contrarian who does not want to agree for the sake of agreement. Instead, we are always proposing something better, more, or different. (Note: The more evolved we become, the less we believe that oppositional arguments lead to better solutions.)

Examples of fifth-borns: Virginia Woolf, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catherine of Aragon, Enya, May Allison, and Mary Ann Even (Author & Free-Thinker).


The Integrator accommodates all the different kinds of energy in the family and brings them together for the purpose of creating value in the group. When we are undeveloped, we accomplish this through self-compromise. As we evolve, we become better able to see creative differences and strengths and wield them together without compromise (either self or others). Integrator is the position usually assumed by the sixth child. Individuals born in the integrator position are great reporters of what is happening in their families, business organizations, and social groups or community organizations, because of unique abilities to express the gestalt of what’s around us. Our key quality is receptiveness and the immediate feedback we provide to our friends, associates and family.

• Intellectual Strategies— We love our pragmatic approach; believing that truth is both where you find it and how you see it. When we are in a playful mood, we can seem like spiritualists.
Emotional Strategies— Growth (by alternately expanding and contracting) is our primary means of collecting information, processing it, then discarding the unimportant things to find the inner reflection of others’ realities. Alternatively, relaxation is the other goal that integrators use to establish our own pace.
Action Strategies— Our favorite mode is observation, where we can be detached and independent enough to see what is going on without jumping to conclusions. When we do speak, it is usually with passion or power, reflecting the size of the group (larger more passionate vs. smaller more powerful).
Body Type Preferences— These are wide ranging for integrators. We could not identify specific preferences.
Clues to Recognizing a Sixth-born— We are identified by our perceptivity, our people assessment skills and our commitment to bring people together to produce results. (Note: When we are evolved, we express a greater sense of confidence and ease, otherwise, we are noted for our anxiety and impatience.)

Sixth Born Examples: John Travolta and Harriet Martineau.


The Synthesist creates a sense of reflecting back the power of the family unit. We not only provide the acknowledgement for all the elements that go into the process, but are able to communicate the meaning and value of the family. In this way we always move the family one step beyond its own knowing of itself by voicing the possibility of what we are actually accomplishing. Synthesist is the position usually assumed by the seventh child. Individuals born in the Synthesist position love to find new ways to accomplish things that optimize performance. We easily put our finger on the ideas and issues that transform a system from a typical result to an exceptional result. For this reason, others admire our inventiveness and creativity.

• Intellectual Strategies— We are diverse in our intellectual approach with realists, pragmatists and idealists, leading the way for some stoic synthesists.
Emotional Strategies— We have primary goals of growth, discrimination and acceptance. We each have our own way to purge ourselves of extraneous issues which distract us from our contributions.
Action Strategies— Synthesists use power mode and perseverance mode in areas where we believe we can make a difference. When dealing with people not involved in our work, we will be found in passion, caution and reserved modes of operation.
Body Type Preferences— We prefer unique body type combinations. Therefore, we are not typically seen as handsome or beautiful, but rather strong, different and unusual—that is, someone others would look twice at.
Clues to Recognizing a Seventh-born— Synthesists are individuals who seem above everything outside the framework of operation or consideration. We believe that our best contribution is to clarify and amplify the ways people come together. We particularly are attracted to situations that honor our ability to be self-reflective. (Note: When we are unevolved, we can be out of balance, and end up demanding things of people inappropriately. When we become more evolved, we understand how to maximize the synergistic interplay between people, producing greater value than is consumed.)

Examples of Seventh-borns: Robert F. Kennedy, Benjamin Franklin, Michael Jackson, Huey Newton and Martin Sheen.

These Birth Order positions are composite survival imprints which include specific combinations of the following personality characteristics. These qualities arise and develop in coordination with environmental circumstances, family interactions and accepted learning methodologies. A positional mandate works to distinguish individuals from their other siblings. How well our siblings have actualized their own Creative Expression and have solidified and maximized the attention and backing of their parents also deeply affects younger siblings. Parental conflict with siblings due to differences in WorldView, Creative Role expression and Defensive styles turn out to be an important key.

Unpredictable factors can cause these definitions to break down. As previously stated, the secondary break down in this model is the knowledge vs. love roles for either second or third-borns. Despite these issues, many have reported that the insights offered in these models dramatically help explain their family dynamics.

Page Author: 
© Copyright 2016, Larry Byram. All Rights Reserved.

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