The Effects of Birth Order on Procrastination
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
ADAMS, L. (1998). The Effects of Birth Order on Procrastination. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 1. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

The Effects of Birth Order on Procrastination
Missouri Western State University Department of Psychology

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
A comparison of the different characteristics of firstborn, middle born, last born, and only children. Firstborn and middle born children are more driven towards work and competition whereas lastborn children are more socially oriented and expect people to do things for them. These characteristics relate to whether a person will procrastinate more or less. Procrastination is when a person puts off the start of a task until they get stressed out about not doing the activity at an earlier time. In this study, 75 Psychology 101 and Psychology 200 students filled out a survey that had questions relating to birth order and procrastination and I compared their answers with the characteristics of the different positions they were born in. It is predicted that middle born children will be least likely to procrastinate and last-born children will be more likely to procrastinate due to their different characteristics. It was found that there is no relationship between birth order and procrastination although I did find a relationship between three of the other questions on the survey.

Birth order is thought to play a large role in people`s lives and how they act. Birth order is a concept that has been studied for many years and it is thought to play a role in the way people behave. There are many different characteristics associated with the order a person is born.

Some of the characteristics of first-born children are their need for precision and their desire to be right. The need to please may represent the first child`s motives for helping and protecting others around them (White, et. al., 1995). Firstborns, through competing for attention, gain the drive to strive for achievement and success in education and their occupations (Todd, Friedman, & Steele, 1993).

Conflict is something firstborns generally try to avoid. If a situation arises which they cannot control, their anxiety rises and they seek reassurance from other people (Forer & Still, 1986). They tend to be more afraid than others do and feel they need to seek out others for support. Firstborns also are considered dependent and affiliative. They are more likely to join social organizations. When in these social groups they are more easily influenced by social pressures because they want to go along with the group consensus.

In a work situation the oldest children in families are usually more task-oriented and concentrate more on work rather than social relationships. Since firstborns are motivated toward achievement, they usually work hard when there is an opportunity for advancement (Forer & Still, 1986).

Middle children are easy to recognize. Athletes are usually the middle children because of their need for competition. They feel like they are in a race to catch up with the progress of the older sibling. They behave as if they are in a race, under full steam all the time, and train continually to surpass their older siblings and to conquer them (White,,1995). No matter what the older sibling does the middle child will always try to do better and always be the overachiever. Since their position makes them compete they are predicted to be more successful and talented.

The middle child position is considered the most difficult of all birth positions. Being stuck in the middle position can make them become very competitive and contributes to high success in the business and commercial world. Some characteristics of the middle child are that they are more excitable, demanding, and attention getting than the others. They are also more self-reliant and responsible. They are less moralistic than others, open in social relations, resist social pressures, and show less anger in commonplace situations (Forer & Still, 1986).

The youngest child may be considered the "spoiled" one, or the baby in the family. They may become the boss in the family and they expect others to take care of them. The youngest child can get away with many more things than the older siblings and usually have very little demanded from them by their parents. Since not a lot is expected from the youngest child they tend to feel weak and helpless and believe that others do not take them seriously (White,,1995).

Laterborns are more human-related and are not so driven towards the work, which can get in the way of getting the job done. They are more interested in maintaining good relationships rather than achieving in work (Forer & Still, 1986). Some of the youngest children lack the self-esteem and confidence to try to succeed because they have to compete with older siblings and feel inferior.

Laterborn children tend to be viewed as more popular and accepted by peers. Unlike firstborns they are more socially oriented and less vulnerable to social pressure (Bohmer & Sitton, 1993). They can be lighthearted, cheerful, and playful. If they are suppressed by parents and other children then they may suffer low self-esteem.

Only children receive all of the attention from their parents and do not ever have to share it. They tend to have better relationships with their parents than do most children in large families. They are more likely to succeed and achieve the goals they want.

I think that these characteristics of birth order can be related to whether a person is more likely to procrastinate or not. Procrastination involves knowing that one is supposed to perform an activity and perhaps even wanting to do so, yet failing to motivate oneself to perform the activity within the expected time frame. Procrastination typically involves delaying the start of a task until one experiences distress about not having performed the activity earlier (Senecal, et. al.1995).

It was stated that procrastinators have low self-esteem and delay task completion because they believe they lack the ability to achieve task success (Ferrari & Emmons, 1995). Usually people procrastinate because they have a fear of failure because they may not have any self-confidence or they may have performance anxiety (Senecal, 1995). An individual postpones doing things that make him or her anxious, apprehensive, or likely to lose face in the presence of peers (Milgram,, 1992).

Procrastination is very common in an academic setting. Most people delay doing the things that they dislike more than the things that they find enjoyable. That is why many college students put off homework, papers, and studying for tests until the last minute. They are stressed out about it and instead of getting it done they just worry about it and keep putting it off.

The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of birth order on one`s level of procrastination. I think that there will be a significant relationship between birth order and procrastination. There are many traits characteristic of last born children that lead me to believe that birth order will play a significant role in the level of procrastination of the youngest child. I feel that first, middle, and only born children will not show as high a level of procrastination as the youngest child. I do think that first-born children might show a small amount of significance compared to middle and only children.



The participants I used for this study were students from a Psychology 101 class and a Psychology 200 class at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Missouri. I used 75 students to complete this study. The majority of the participants were from the Psychology 101 class so many of my participants were freshman. All participants received course credit for their participation.


For this study I used a scale that I composed myself. The scale consisted of 20 multiple choice questions, six of which were about procrastination and 13 that were about other general topics. The first question on the survey was which birth order position they were born in. There is a copy of this scale in the appendix.

Procedure To collect my data I went to each of the classes at the beginning of the hour and handed out the survey and asked them to fill it out. I did not give any directions because they were written at the top of the survey. The directions were to circle the answer that best fits you and please answer as accurately as possible. After they filled out the survey I explained the relationship I was trying to find.


I conducted a study to see if there was a significance between the position one is born and the level of procrastination. I did a one-way between subjects ANOVA that compared the procrastination level of only children, firstborn, middleborn, and last-born children. I found that there is no significant difference between birth order and procrastination. The main effect for this is (F (3,71)=.266, p>.05). Although I found no significant difference between birth order and procrastination, three of the questions I asked on the survey did differ significantly by birth order.

I found that in question seven, which asked, if they felt there were social pressures placed on them at college, middleborn children were more likely to say there are not social pressures placed on them. The main effect for this is (F (3,71)=2.77, p<.05). I also found a significant difference in question nine, which had to do with prejudice on this campus. Middle born children were more likely to report that there is no prejudice on this campus. The main effect for prejudice is (F (3,74)=4.35, p<.01). The last question I found a significance in was number 19, which was about anxiety. I found that only children were more likely to be anxious than any of the other birth order positions. The main effect for anxiety is (F (3,71)=2.7, p<.05).


I predicted that I would find a significant relationship between birth order and procrastination. I thought that I would find that last born children would show the highest level of procrastination and that middle born and only born children would show the lowest level of procrastination. I also predicted that firstborn children would show a slight level of procrastination compared to middleborn and only children. My results indicated that there is no significant relationship between the position one was born in and the level of procrastination.

I predicted that lastborn children would procrastinate the most because of the characteristics most likely assigned them. Lastborn children usually expect others to take care of them and are not driven towards work. Youngest born children lack confidence to succeed because of competition with older siblings and so they feel inferior (White,, 1995).

I predicted that middle born children would not show a significant level of procrastination because usually they are the most competitive and that contributes to success. They are also considered more self-reliant and responsible, so therefore I predicted they would be the least likely to procrastinate (Forer &Still, 1986).

One of the limitations of this experiment was that I made the survey up myself. The questions may not have been a very good predictor of procrastination. Another limitation might be that the students who filled out the survey did not take it seriously and they might have not been honest in answering the questions.

This experiment would not generalize because I found no significant relationship between birth order and procrastination. I think that the question on anxiety would be the most likely to generalize to the general population. I think that the question about prejudice on this campus could generalize to our whole campus and I think the results would come out the same. I also think that the one on social pressures at college could be generalized to other colleges as well and I think I would get the same results.

If I had to do this project again I might have tried to use many more subjects or I could expand more on one of the other three questions that did show a significance. I then could have chose a wider variety of people for my project.


Bohmer, P., & Sitton, S. (1993). The influence of birth order and family size on notable American women`s selection of careers. Psychological Record, 43, 375-380.

Ferrari, J.R., & Emmons, R.A. (1995). Methods of procrastination and their relation to self-control and self-reinforcement: An exploratory study. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 10, 135-142.

Forer, L.K., & Still, H. (1986). The birth order factor (pp. 45-147). New York: David McKay Company, Inc.

Milgram, N.A., Dangour, W., & Raviv, A. (1992). Situational and personal determinants of academic procrastination. Journal of General Psychology,119, 123-133.

Senecal, C., Koestner, R., & Valleran, R.J. (1995). Self-regulation and academic procrastination. Journal of Social Psychology, 135, 607-619.

Todd, J., Friedman, A., & Steele, S. (1993). Birth order and sex of siblings effects on self-ratings of interpersonal power: Gender and ethnic differences. Individual Psychology, 49, 86-93.

White, J., Campbell, L., & Stewart, A. (1995). Associations of scores on the White-Campbell Psychological Birth Order Inventory and the Kern Lifestyle Scale. Psychological Reports, 77, 1187-1196.


Please circle the answer that best fits you and please answer as accurately as possible.

1. Which position were you born in?

a. An only child

b. Oldest child

c. Middle child

d. Youngest child

2. How easy do you get angry?

a. Very easy

b. Somewhat easy

c. Rarely do I get angry

3. Do you think that school is stressful when working?

a. Yes

b. Somewhat

c. No

4. Do you avoid doing things in which you expect to do poorly?

a. All of the time

b. Some of the time

c. Never

5. Do you think you have good self-esteem?

a. Yes

b. Somewhat

c. No

6. When packing for a trip when are you most likely to pack?

a. A couple of days before

b. The night before

c. The day you are leaving

7. Do you feel that there are many social pressures placed on you at college?

a. Yes

b. Somewhat

c. No

8. Do you feel that stress in the workplace is common in any job?

a. Yes

b. Somewhat

c. No

9. Do you feel that there is prejudice on this campus?

a. Yes

b. Somewhat

c. No

10. Do you always finish important jobs with time to spare?

a. Most of the time

b. Some of the time

c. Never

11. Are you more likely to skip class when it is cold outside?

a. Yes

b. Sometimes

c. No

12. Do you study better when there is music?

a. Yes

b. Makes no difference

c. No

13. How often do you drink?

a. 4-6 days a week

b. 1-3 days a week

c. Never

14. When something is too tough to tackle, do you tend to postpone it?

a. Most of the time

b. Some of the time

c. Never

15. How do you manage your money?

a. I waste it right when I get it

b. I spend it moderately

c. I save it

16. Do you feel that your parents put pressure on you to succeed?

a. Yes

b. Sometimes

c. No

17. Do you manage to find an excuse for not doing something?

a. All the time

b. Some of the time

c. Never

18. How many days before a test do you start studying?

a. One week

b. Less than a week

c. The night before

19. Do you get anxious?

a. All the time

b. Sometimes

c. Rarely

20. Whenever you make a plan of action do you

a. Always follow it

b. Sometimes follow it

c. Never follow it

Submitted 5/20/98 2:18:23 PM
Last Edited 8/17/2008 4:53:07 AM
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