Considering Kevin Leman and/or Frank Sulloway or other experts in this area, what would be the usefulness of an analysis of birth order as a construct for one's life? 

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are, Dr. Kevin Leman outlines the general personality traits of the first-born, the middle child, the baby of the family, and the only child from studies that he conducted. From these studies he determined that the first-born often displays the following traits:

  1. a perfectionist
  2. well-organized, 
  3. extremely motivated
  4. a natural leader
  5. critical  thinker
  6. serious
  7. scholarly
  8. logical
  9. "a techie"

In order to test his determinations about the first-born, in one instance, Dr. Leman asked a professor how many of his architectural students were first-born children. The professor at first thought the question silly, but later did survey his class, only to learn that nearly every one of his architecture students was a first-born.  A simple conclusion that can be drawn from such a study of birth-order traits, then, is that they can help channel people into professions or trades that demand and help foster the attributes which the individual possesses. 

Parents, too, can be aware of the character traits of children with respect to their birth order, and foster those attributes which will help motivate and provide confidence in their children, as well as working towards improvements of the children's weaker areas.

As individuals, the children themselves can mature and improve the more that they understand about their unique personality traits; in fact, they can then often turn their lives around with such self-understanding as they learn what will motivate them. In his Encyclopedia of Creativity, Frank Sulloway states,

Firstborns and laterborns do not appear to differ in overall levels of creativity, but they do differ in the ways by which they attain creative distinction.

With the knowledge of how to attain creative distinction, individuals can go on to lead productive and happier lives. Moreover, in his study of middle children, Sulloway discovered that they are more given to diplomacy and co-operation than other children in their families as they are acquainted with mediating disputes among siblings.

Identification of oneself within  the figurative pecking order of birth order permits people to pursue careers that fit their personalities, thus ensuring better their happiness and sense of fulfillment, although Sulloway finds little disparity in the level of creativity within families, evidence which should encourage everyone to feel that they can achieve as well as any other in their family.