INTRODUCTION For many centuries the relationship between birth order and other characteristics has been studied. It is believed by many personality theorists that ones position in their family affects how they experience things and how they develop. Alfred Adler, a popular personality theorist, proposes that the first born and only children are more motivated and excel academically; they are more serious, seclusive, and sensitive. Middle born individuals are characterized more as noncompetitive and nonconfrontational. Last born children tend to be outgoing, popular, and carefree. The purpose of this study was to examine the correlation between birth order and academic achievement in college students. More specifically the question asked was: Is there a relationship between the order in which one is born and the level of their grade point average (GPA).
There were a total of 87 participants involved in this study, including both males and females. All participants were undergraduate students attending Arkansas Tech University and each were enrolled in a general psychology course. The participants received no compensation for their involvement in the study and could choose rather or not to participate.
Each participant began the study by signing a consent form which shared with them the reason, risks, and benefits of participating in the study and giving permission to the researchers to use the information for the project. After the consent forms were signed and taken up, a survey consisting of 12 questions, ranging from information about family to the participantís future plans, was passed out to each student who wished to participate. The students were then asked to fill out the survey taking as much or as little time as needed and then to bring their completed survey to the front of the room. After the results were collected they were counted and put into SPSS for correlation studies. This experiment was conducted as part of an Experimental Psychology course and posed no risk to participants or conductors. For protection of participants, no names or identifying information was asked.
RESULTS The relationships between grade point average, birth order, personality, and how the students felt in relation to their families are summarized in Table 1. As shown in Table 1, the relationship between grade point average and birth order shows no significance with a .483 correlation. The relationship between birth order and personality also shows no significance with a correlation of .404. The relationship between grade point average and how the students felt in relation to their families does not have any significance with a .327 correlation. The relationship between personality and how the students felt in relation to their family was not significant, but it was the closest correlated relationship we found with a correlation of .075 significance.
DISCUSSION This experiment studied the relationship between birth order and grade point average in college. However, the results did not show that there was any correlation between the two variables. Two studies claimed that birth order and grade point average had a low significance correlation (Sass & Lexmond, 1981). Yet, another study showed that birth order and grade point average were not correlated (Vonderheide, 1978). In this experiment, the relationship between birth order, personality, and how the participants felt they related to their family were tested. When birth order was studied there was no correlation between any of the variables. However, the correlation between personality and the participantsí relation to their family was almost significant. Results from this study might be due to several factors. One factor was the location of where the participants took the survey. Two different rooms were used in this survey: one in a bright room with windows, the other in a dim room with no windows. This may have caused the participants to have significant differences in moods; therefore, prompting them to answer in a certain way. Another factor taken in to account was the participants themselves. A majority of the people who participated in our survey were freshmen, many of whom may have moved away from home. This move may have resulted in conflict of the participantsí feelings of how they relate to their family. Also, the participants may not have decided what their major will be, another aspect that was taken into account in the survey. The number of participants might also have been a contributing factor. Eighty-seven students took the survey; however, a larger sample might have produced different results. A few surveys were faulty. One question asked for the approximate grade point average; however, it did not consider those who were in their first semester of college. Some participants also left questions unanswered or answered multiple ways when there should have been only one response. Previous studies have conflicting data as to the significance of the correlation between birth order and GPA. Two studies reported a low but significant correlation between birth order and GPA (Sass & Lexmond, 1981). One of those studies stated that siblings in earlier birth order positions tend to have higher grade point averages (Sass & Lexmond, 1981). However, another study claimed that those in earlier birth order positions did not have higher grade point averages (Phillips & Phillips, 1994). In conclusion, this study found that there was no correlation between grade point average and birth order.
REFERENCESPhillips, A.S., & Phillips, C.R. (1994). Birth order and achievement attributions. Individual Psychology: Journal of Adlerian Theory, Research & Practice, 50, 119-124.
Sass, E.J., & Lexmond T. (1981). Family configuration, intelligence, and grade point averages of college students. The Journal of Psychology, 107, 53-55.
Vonderheide, S.G. (1978). Birth order and college grade point average. Psychological Reports, 42, 150.
GPA Birth Order Personality Family RelationGPA -- .483 .346 .327Birth Order .483 -- .404 .117Personality .346 .404 -- .075Family Relation .327 .117 .075 --