Birth Order Effects in Stepfamilies

When combining two families, it’s easy to overlook the effects a birth order change can have among children. When my husband and I married, he had a first-born daughter, Adrianne, who was 10 years old, and I had a first-born daughter, Jamie, who was 5 years old. Both girls were accustomed to being the boss with their younger siblings. But when Adrianne began bossing Jamie around, the two clashed everytime.

We had never considered the birth order collision that would take place between Adrianne and Jamie. For us to expect the two girls to get along when they were both fighting for the same role they had played for years was unrealistic. Jamie needed time to adjust to having a big sister and Adrianne needed help in relating to a younger sibling who resented being thrust into the middle child position.

Dr. Kevin Lehman has written an entire book on the effects of birth order in a stepfamily: Living in a Stepfamily Without Getting Stepped on: Helping Your Children Survive the Birth Order Blender. Here’s one important suggestion he gives:

When a child who is born into one birth order lands in another position in his blended family, do not treat the child as something he is not. He may have to take on different responsibilities or play different roles at times, but never forget who he really is.

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Time helps the adjustment of birth order changes. In our family, Jamie grew to enjoy having an older sister and Adrianne learned to relate to Jamie differently than her other younger siblings.

But the effects of birth order changes need to be considered when two families merge.

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