Can Birth Order Predict Substance Abuse?

There are certain characteristics commonly associated with individuals in each respective birth order, some of which is supported in research and others that are seemingly old wives’ tales.  The personality traits that may be influenced by birth order can have a lasting effect on the personal, professional, and psychological wellbeing of the individual. Due to the possible mental health and impulse control implications of birth order, recent research has attempted to find a correlation between birth order and the likelihood of substance abuse.   

Despite the many exceptions to these rules, birth order is said to impact intelligence, deviance, and success.  First born children, for example, are often said to be natural leaders, have higher I.Q. scores, and sometimes display controlling behavior.  Middle children are sometimes thought of as most likely to be a “problem child” due to their attention-seeking behavior. There is some data to support this suggestion, although attention-seeking may manifest as good or bad behavior.  Youngest children are often characterized as spoiled or sheltered, and are commonly associated with self-centered and manipulative tendencies. Children without siblings are sometimes thought of as lacking social skills and acting older than their age. 

There have been various studies that look at the relationship between birth order and substance abuse, many of which contradict each other.  Some studies suggest that the middle child is most likely to abuse substances due to a lack of attention in their childhood, while others point to the pressure to succeed placed on first born children as a basis for future addiction.  There are also studies that assert that the youngest child does not develop adequate coping mechanisms and therefore is most likely to handle anxiety and depression by using drugs or alcohol. One study conducted in Sweden found that later born siblings, meaning anybody that is not first born or an only child, are more likely to end up hospitalized as a result of substance abuse.  This study concluded that birth order is a more significant predictor of substance use hospitalization than sex or socioeconomic status.

Regardless of conflicting research on birth order and other variables, addiction can happen to anyone.  If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help. At Arbor Behavioral Healthcare, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  The Arbor uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, and at The Arbor you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 844-413-2690.