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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2020

25 - Birth Order and Evolutionary Psychology

from Part VI - Evolution and Development


Birth order has long been thought to have a lasting influence on people’s lives through its effects on social customs and by fostering individual differences in personality and social behavior. Historically, birth order has been linked with well-documented differences in professional opportunities and achievement, emigration patterns, likelihood of reproduction, mortality rates, inheritance practices, and the politics of royal succession (Altus, 1966; Boone, 1986; Bu, 2016; Duby, 1977; Galton, 1874; Herlihy, 1977; Hrdy & Judge, 1993; Sulloway, 1996). An analysis of birth order and the social customs in 39 non-Western societies found that firstborns generally receive more extensive birth ceremonies than do their younger siblings, are allotted special privileges, and, even in adulthood, exert authority over their brothers and sisters (Rosenblaat & Skoogberg, 1974). Additionally, firstborns in these 39 societies received a greater share of parental property than did laterborns.