There’s been much focus over the years on the role of birth order on personality, employment and finances, to list just a few areas. Whatever you think of the broad idea—first proposed by Sigmund Freud collaborator Alfred Adler—there’s little question that many of us see patterns in sibling behavior based on who came first, last, in the middle or elsewhere. Generally, few fare worse in these assessments of birth-order traits than middle children. (See: Brady, Jan; and Tanner, Stephanie) Now comes a survey suggesting that kids in the center of sibling series have yet another cross to bear: They’re more likely to get hit up for financial help by their brothers and sisters.
The survey of 2,211 U.S. adults was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of CouponCabin.com, the discount aggregation site. For the most part the survey was not especially revealing, with lots of non-results or results that fly in the face of more rigorous research. Exhibit A: While 87% of first-borns described themselves as financially responsible—which you’d expect, based on birth order theory—the percentage of middle and youngest describing themselves in the same terms were identical (88% and 86%, respectively), assuming even the narrowest margin of error (which was unreported). Exhibit B: The CouponCabin.com survey suggests that first-borns and only children are the biggest risk-takers, which conflicts with a growing body of research on the subject suggesting that youngest children are the most risk-tolerant. (For example, they typically have the largest percentage of their portfolios invested in stocks.)
But in one realm the CouponCabin results were both startling and, perhaps, significant, suggesting at the very least an area for further study in both the academic and corporate worlds. To quote the online site’s release:
“Middle borns, who report they are the most financially responsible, are also the most likely to be asked to lend money to their siblings. Nearly half (49 percent) of middle borns said they have been asked by their older or younger siblings for dough. First borns (36 percent) and last borns (29 percent) report the lowest instances of being asked to lend money.”
In other words, middle children are most likely to get the call or email when their siblings find themselves in financial distress. Presuming these results—the responses of survey takers, remember, not actual financial data—bear out in real life, it’s not difficult to imagine why this might be so. Middle children—neglected as they are!—are sometimes described as resourceful, creative problem-solvers “who grow up thinking they can handle anything themselves, including money problems.” They’re also said to be peacekeepers and “people pleasers” who just want everyone to get along and be happy. And, not least, middle kids are also thought to “handle disappointments better.”
To sum up: Middle children are self-assured people-pleasers who can handle it when you don’t pay them back.
Who better to borrow money from?