A review of the evidence for birth order differences in anxiety and affiliation in stressful situations

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T. J. Kushnir
Cite this article:  Kushnir, T. (1978). A review of the evidence for birth order differences in anxiety and affiliation in stressful situations. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 6(2), 179-186.


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The review examines two commonly held views: first, that firstborns become more anxious than laterborns in stressful situations; secondly, that firstborns, more than laterborn individuals, seek the company of others in stressful situations. It appears that these notions are too generalized and should be qualified. The birth order literature does not distinguish between state anxiety and anxiety as a trait. Contrary to some suggestions, there is no evidence for birth order differences in trait-anxiety. However, there are indications that in some threatening situations firstborn females report higher levels of state anxiety than laterborn females. The evidence concerning males is equivocal. Some operational definitions of "affiliation" lack clarity and generality. Birth order differences in affiliation are found only among females and only in stressful circumstances which arouse greater anxiety among firstborn than among laterborn females. This finding suggests that the firstborn females affiliate in order to reduce anxiety rather than to engage in social comparison of emotions, as originally suggested by Schachter (1959).
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