In many families, there’s a notable phenomenon where the older daughter often takes on the role of the family manager. This dynamic is influenced by several factors, including birth order, parental expectations, and societal norms.
In this article, we’ll explore this phenomenon with insights from psychological studies to better understand why it occurs and its potential implications.
Birth Order and Responsibility:
Psychological studies, such as those conducted by Alfred Adler and later researchers, have provided substantial evidence for the impact of birth order on personality and behavior. The “birth order effect” suggests that the oldest child in a family typically exhibits more responsible, organized, and leadership-oriented traits. This inclination towards responsibility can contribute to the older daughter naturally assuming the role of family manager.
A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Leman, 2005) found that birth order can influence personality traits, with first-born children often displaying more conscientiousness and leadership qualities compared to their younger siblings.
Parental expectations and role assignments within families have been a subject of interest for psychologists. Studies have shown that parents often hold certain expectations based on their children’s birth order, reinforcing the family manager role for the older daughter. For instance, research conducted by Katherine Conger and colleagues (1997) in the journal Child Development found that parents tend to give more responsibility to their first-born children in terms of chores and caregiving.
The concept of role modeling within families is also supported by psychological studies. Children learn behavior and responsibility by observing their older siblings and parents. A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (Whiteman et al., 2007) indicated that older siblings often serve as role models for their younger counterparts, which can lead to emulation of their responsible behavior, further establishing the older daughter’s role as the family manager.
Maturity and Experience:
Studies in developmental psychology have demonstrated that older children typically have more life experience and maturity than their younger siblings. This additional experience contributes to their ability to handle responsibilities effectively. Research published in Child Development (McHale et al., 2001) showed that older siblings often excel in caregiving roles, showcasing their higher levels of maturity and competence.
Gender Roles and Stereotypes:
Psychological research has consistently highlighted the influence of gender roles and stereotypes on family dynamics. A study published in the journal Sex Roles (Eagly & Steffen, 1984) found that society has historically associated women with caregiving and responsibility within the family. This societal expectation may lead the older daughter to conform to these gender roles, reinforcing her role as the family manager.
Psychological studies offer valuable insights into why the older daughter often assumes the role of the family manager. These insights include the impact of birth order on personality traits, parental expectations and role assignments, the role of role modeling, the influence of maturity and experience, and the persistence of gender roles and stereotypes. While this phenomenon can have positive aspects such as developing leadership skills and responsibility, it’s crucial for families to be aware of these dynamics and promote balanced roles and responsibilities among siblings. Open communication and understanding can help create a harmonious family environment where each child’s unique skills and contributions are valued and nurtured.