Birth-Order and Creativity among Children

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Submitted: August 10, 2017

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Submitted: August 10, 2017





Level 400

Student ID: 10300535



Topic: An Investigation into The effect of Gender and Birth-order on Creativity









Human beings possess distinctive patterns of behavior and thought process which makes them unique, these unique patterns are what make an individual a person, and this is a concept referred to as personality. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, Personality is “the sum total of the behavioral and mental characteristics that are distinctive of an individual”. Psychologists have over the years been researching into these dynamics, trying to find the answer to why people are different from each other. The evolutionist school of thought opines that the human mind in a biological system evolved over generations and is subject to the laws of natural selection and that each change is specialized to solve a particular domain or class of adaptive problems for example; cost benefit analysis in making informed decisions and spatial abilities which is the ability to move objects in space. The cognitive psychologists opine that an individual’s behavior pattern is as a result of his thought process and two individuals given the same situation would react differently based on the way they perceive or process the situation.  According to J.B Watson and other behaviorists, behavior and thought process is as a result of influences from the environment.

In studying personality, researchers have taking into consideration the factor of birth order which simply refers to an individual’s ranking among biological siblings. In our Ghanaian community, people have certain perceptions about firstborn, middle-born and last-born children. Some general beliefs people have about individuals’ personality traits based on their birth-order is as follows; Oldest Child; People pleaser, Conformist, May be bossy or a know-it-all, Are often very organized and prompt, Often controlling and over achievers. Surprisingly, more than half of the American presidents have been first born children. Middle Child; Flexible, Independent, May be an excellent mediator or negotiator, Often generous and sociable, May try to differentiate themselves from the eldest sibling through behaviors and interests, May be rebellious, Engage in attention seeking behaviors, May be extremely competitive. Julia Roberts, a famous creative Hollywood actress falls in this category. Youngest Child; displays risk-taking behaviors, is often creative, often feels inferior as if everyone else is bigger and more capable, is highly competitive, Can become bored easily with routine, and is usually friendly and outgoing with a terrific sense of humor. A famous personality who falls in this category is Bill Gates who is known to be the creator of Microsoft, which is powerful software that has been very beneficial to people the world over, making him one of the richest men alive.

One interesting aspect of personality related to these birth order differences that researchers have found is the factor of creativity therefore psychologists are beginning to take a critical look at creativity as a distinctive characteristic. Creativity is generally the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations. Psychologists are researching into the genesis of creativity and finding what enhances or impedes it. This is because some individuals just see the world differently from others. When thinking of Walt Disney; the brain behind “Disney World”, devotion, and innovation come to mind. Such individuals must have had a degree of gifted perception and unusual acuity. This causes us to ask the question; “What was their secret ingredient?” The answer is “Creativity”.

 Chi and Snyder, two researchers whose claim to fame is a "thinking cap" meant to induce both creativity and savant-like skills at will (like magic!), they were looking at the Anterior Temporal Lobe (ATL). There is evidence which suggests that “the left hemisphere is involved in the maintenance of existing hypotheses and representations, while the right hemisphere is associated with novelty and with updating hypotheses and representations." (wikipedia).

In the world of business, creativity has become essential this is because everything else has become a commodity available to everyone, and in order to make financial progress, there needs to be something different about a company’s product. Simply put; novelty promotes sales. Imagine a cooking competition with several Chefs at a long table. Each Chef has the same ingredients and the same cooking facility, who wins the competition? Well at a lower level, the chef with the highest quality wins but at a higher level, all chefs have excellent quality so the one who wins is one who can turn the same ingredient into ‘superior’ quality.

Birth-Order and Creativity

 Galton was the first speculated about the special eminence of firstborns in 1874,then came many other researchers over the past century focusing their attention on the question of whether the firstborn status facilitates or inhibits creativity (e.g., Eisenman, 1987; Gaynor & Runco, 1992; Sulloway, 1996) cited in . Unfortunately, there is little agreement among scholars about the effects of birth order on creativity. Although some authors suggest that firstborns should be less creative than later-borns because firstborns tend to be more conservative, conventional, and conforming (e.g., Sulloway,1996), others argue that the overrepresentation of firstborns among eminent individuals indicates their higher creativity (e.g. Altus, 1966; Schachter, 1963)

Statement of problem

People have established generalizations which have been passed on for generations concerning the creative abilities of firstborn individuals and later born individuals. The firstborn is often seen as a conformist and the later born is viewed as being more flexible hence more creative. As a student of psychology, I believe that these prejudices about human creative behavior should be keenly investigated to find true empirical evidence to either support these claims or disprove them altogether. This is to break the continual cycle of handing over faulty and unjustifiable claims about human nature even in this advanced age we find ourselves in.

Aims and objectives of the study

The goals of this study are;

  1. Find out whether later born children would perform better on a creativity test than firstborn children.
  2. Investigate the gender differences in creative performance.
  3. Investigate the correlation between creativity and birthorder.

Relevance of study

This study is very essential to the world of psychology as well as the nation Ghana. The world of psychology because as Lefton and Brannon (2003) explains; psychology in its essence is aimed at finding empirical evidence to describe and explain behavior and thought processes in order to predict and control behavior and also prevent negative consequences of behavior where necessary, and this is exactly what this work is aimed at achieving. In addition this study would serve as relevant research article, especially since there is not much indigenous data in this area of study.

The study would be essential to the nation Ghana as a whole because knowledge about the empirical disparities between first-born children and later-born children on the basis of creativity would inform parental styles and teaching methods employed in educational institutions so as to bring out the best in each individual according to their pre-dispositions. This I believe would go a long way in building up capabilities in individuals which is essential in nation building as Dalai Lama coins “With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world”.





Psychologists the world over continue to research into whether indeed later-borns were found to display more creativity than later-borns. Previous empirical work supports both positions. Some studies showed that firstborns are less creative than later-borns (e.g., Eisenman, 1964; Seay, 1985;Staffieri, 1970) and some provided evidence that firstborns are more creative than laterborns (Eisenman, 1987; Eisenman & Schussel, 1970; Lichtenwalner & Maxwell, 1969; Schubert, Wagner,& Schubert, 1977. cited in Markus Baer et al(2005) . Other studies support neither position obtaining no significant differences in creativity between firstborns and laterborns (e.g., Albaum, 1977;Cicirelli, 1967; Datta, 1968; Wilks & Thompson,1979).

Theoretical Framework

Quite a number of interesting theories have been propounded as far as creativity is concerned. There is the Psychoanalytical Theory of Creativity. The main proponents of this theory include Freud, Jung, Kris, Rank, Adler, and Hammer; and the general argument is that people become creative in reaction to difficult circumstances or repressed emotions. For example, as Freud maintained, people repress memories of traumatic episodes or events, and the emotions related to these events are released through creative outlets. The theory also argues that people are able to demonstrate creativity when they link the personal unconscious with the collective conscious, regression precedes creativity and that feelings of inferiority contribute to creativity. Arguably, however, other theorists maintain that the psychoanalytic theory lacks credence because it fails to take into consideration that people are both biological and social beings.

There also exists the Mental Illness Theory of Creativity. The proponents of this theory include Briggs, Eisenman, Goodwin, Jamison, Richards, and Martindale; and the major tenet is that some type of mental illness is actually necessary in order for people to be creative, even if that illness is exceptionally mild. Studies have shown that the mental disorders most frequently associated with increased creativity are bipolar and manic-depressive syndromes, where sufferers undergo extreme mood swings that perhaps contribute to enhanced creative expression. It is interesting to note that many other theorists argue that mental illness actually interferes with and even prevents creativity and while, granted, some highly creative individuals do suffer from some form of mental disorder, the majority of highly creative individuals do not suffer from any form of mental disorder at all.

Hans J. Eysenck propounded a theory which he called Psychoticism. Being the main proponent of this theory, he argued that highly creative individuals possessed a quality termed "psychoticism" – a disposition for psychotic tendencies. Eysenck also maintained that these psychotic tendencies were the foundation for creative personalities, and he developed a word-association test to measure a person’s psychoticism, with results correlated to form a continuum, ranging from psychotic through average and from conventional to highly social to altruistic. Many proposals have been given linking Eysenck's psychoticism scale to the level of creativity in people. It has been generally found that more creative people generally have higher psychoticism scores than people with a lower creativity. Eysenck (1993) stated, "I argue that intelligence is essentially characterized as a search process in order to discover a neo-genetic solution, to use Spearman's (1923, 1927) term, bringing together different ideas from memory to produce new answers to problems". Other theorists, however, for example, Rothenburg, disagreed with Eysenck and argued that his theory relied too heavily upon the results of the test he himself developed and, more seriously, that Eysenck had designed the test specifically to support his theory, which invalidated the results.

One other interesting theory is the Addiction Theory of Creativity. The main proponents of this theory are Lapp, Collins, Izzo, Norlander, Gustafson, and Wallas; and its major tenet is that addiction, for example, to drugs and/or alcohol, contributes to and even causes creativity. As expected, this theory is not largely supported by the mainstream research community. However, independent researchers, as well as some creative personalities who themselves suffer from addiction problems have done some research. In fact, some conducted a placebo study with some male volunteers, giving half tonic water and half vodka, and found that the amount of alcohol consumed did not increase a person’s creativity. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the members of the study who simply thought they were intoxicated were the most creative of the entire group; and, in brief, although theorists have found there is often a correlation between addictive behavior and creativity, studies have not supported the argument that addiction either causes or contributes to creativity. (Dacey &Lennon, 1998)

We also have the Humanistic Theory of Creativity which is based mainly upon Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory he developed, which maintains that humans have six basic needs that must be met in order for them to thrive and reach maximum potential. People’s lower needs, however, must be met in order for them to progress to the next highest level, and only upon reaching the uppermost level, self-actualization, where needs are related to purpose and identify, are they at last free enough and comfortable enough to express themselves key thing to note is that the supporters of this theory argue that environment is unimportant because even the most difficult of environments cannot hinder creativity if someone possesses the ability to self-actualize and, thus, obtain the highest level, where he or she can choose to be creative. In other words, people decide for themselves whether or not they will be creative. It's interesting to note that the Humanistic Theory is the one theory with which few people find fault, perhaps because it makes perfect sense that a person cannot concentrate upon creative endeavors unless his or her most basic and primal needs have first been met.

Ellis Paul Torrance is best known for his research in creativity. In the year 1979, he proposed what he referred to as; a common framework for creative thinking processes. According to Torrance, creativity consists of five norm-referenced measures or  components; Fluency [ability to produce a large number of alternatives], Originality [ability to produce novel or special ideas that require creative abilities], Elaboration [Ability to develop and elaborate an idea], Abstractness [ability to sense the idea behind a problem and transfer it into a response] and Resistance to closure [ ability to resist the simplest solution which often doesn’t have creative contents].

Review of related studies

Markus Baer, Greg R. Oldham, Andrea B. Hollingshead, and Gwendolyn Costa Jacobsohn of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign undertook a comprehensive study in this area. The study examined the possibility that sibling demographic differences (i.e., age and sex differences between the focal individual and his or her siblings) and sib size (i.e., number of children in the focal individual’s family) moderate the relation between an individual’s birth order and his or her creativity. A total of 359 undergraduates described their family background and then were assigned to small teams to work on 8 problem-solving tasks. Each individual’s contributions to the tasks were evaluated for creativity by his or her teammates. The result was that firstborns with large sibling groups were more creative especially when they had relatively more siblings close in age or of the opposite sex. They confirmed the preposition that firstborns are more creative on problem solving tasks. However what were examined was the creative contributions made by individuals in a team context. Previous research in the area of brainstorming has shown that interactions that occur naturally between the members of a team often inhibit creativity. Specifically, brainstorming teams have frequently been demonstrated to produce fewer ideas than a comparable number of individual brainstormers due to factors such as social inhibition (e.g., social anxiety, social loafing) and cognitive interference (e.g., production blocking; Larey & Paulus, 1999; Paulus, 2000). Because the inefficiencies that result from multiple people combining their efforts might interfere with individuals’ creative contributions, it is possible that the results obtained in this study cannot be generalized to situations where participants generate ideas independently. This could mean that the older-borns were found to be more creative due to their boldness and nature to take responsibility.

Jessica L. Walton conducted a research on birth order differences. ”The purpose of the research was to determine whether familial birth order has an effect on intelligence. As part of the research, Forty-nine students (26 freshmen, 12 sophomores, 6 juniors, and 5 seniors) attending Loyola University in New Orleans were administered the Wonderlic Personnel Test (Wonderlic, 1983). Of these forty-nine participants 10 were male and 39 were female. Each participant indicated his/her age, sex, college level, ordinal birth position (firstborn, middle, lastborn, and whether adopted or fostered. Those participants that indicated they were adopted or fostered were omitted from this study. However, the mean for the youngest (21.3, SD= 4.42) was significantly lower than the mean for either the firstborn or middle born. After the study it was found that; the mean for the youngest (21.3, SD= 4.42) was significantly lower than the mean for either the firstborn or middle born. This is quiet similar to a study conducted by Farah et al where they examined whether we exchange our creativity for intelligence.

Martha Ferah and her colleagues researched on the effect of a cognitive enhancing drug; Adderall, on individuals. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, the effects of on the performance of 16 healthy young adults were measured on four tests of creativity from the psychological literature: two tasks requiring divergent thought and two requiring convergent thought. Results indicated that Adderall affected performance on the convergent tasks only, in one case enhancing it, particularly for lower performing individuals, and in the other case enhancing it for the lower-performing and impairing it for higher-performing individuals. Conclusion The preliminary evidence is inconsistent with the hypothesis that Adderall has an overall negative effect on creativity. From this study it could therefore be projected that if in Walton’s study, the eldest born possessed higher intelligence then we can create the premise according to Farah that the eldest born will display lesser creativity than the later borns.

Lindsay R. Fuller of Missouri Western State University Department of Psychology conducted an investigation into the link between manic depression and creativity. Her research was inspired by the term “mad artist” as the connection between genius and insanity have been around for a long time. The participants for this study were 85 students from two introductory psychology classes from a regional college in northwestern Missouri. The average age of the participants was 21.43. There were 31 males and 51 females and 3 who did not give their sex. The materials used in this study were two paper and pencil tests. One was a shortened version of the Goldberg mania and depression scale and the other was a qualitative test for creativity that involved coming up with unusual uses for common objects. The goal of this test is to come up with as many creative uses for the object in the allotted time. Results show indicated a significant linear relationship between the two variables. People with higher MD scores tended to have more creative uses for a newspaper.

Gender and Creativity

Another interesting research was conducted in Turkey by G. Oral et al (2007). It was divided into three studies. In Study One, they studied gender differences in creativity and the effect of age on creativity. In Study Two, they studied the relationship between creativity and motivation, and in Study Three, they examine the factor structure of creativity. I will however dwell on study one which deals with gender and age differences in creativity. Gunseli Oral and his colleagues started out by stating that Men and women traditionally have not differed in creativity, either as measured by creativity tests or by creative performance and that “there have been some studies of non-Western populations, including Japanese college students (Saeki et al., 2001) Chinese and German middle school children (Shi et al., 1999) and Chinese school children (Wang et al., 1998). In all cases, no significant gender differences were found”. In conducting the study one, there were 350 participants, all students in grades 5 through 8 in a private elementary school in Antalya, Turkey. The gender breakdown was 190 male and 160 female participants. Participants were administered two measures of creativity: the Alternate Uses Test – Form B (Christensen et al., 1960), in which participants think of different and unusual ways that usual objects can be used, and the Consequences Test – Form A (Christensen et al., 1958), in which participants are asked to list possible consequences that may occur after a particular event. The tests were translated into Turkish from English by the senior author. Two specialists in English Language Teaching (ELT) checked the translated versions for comprehensibility. Cronbach-alpha coefficients for reliability were found as 0.77 for the Consequences test, and 0.78 for the Alternate Uses Test. Results showed no significant difference in the creativity scores of participants but there was significant difference in age which is to be expected because according to developmental psychologists, cognitive skills advance with age.

 Age differences across studies predominantly involved regions within the ‘task-positive network’ of the brain, a set of interconnected regions engaged during a variety of externally driven cognitive tasks. Old adults engaged prefrontal regions more than young adults. When performance was equivalent, old adults engaged left prefrontal cortex; poorly performing old adults engaged right prefrontal cortex. Young adults engaged occipital regions more than old adults, particularly when performance was unequal and during perceptual tasks. However, no age-related differences were found in the parietal lobes. Such findings confirm the saying; “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

In the case of Ghana I would like to find out whether there would be disparities in the creativity level between males and females using a level age range of adolescents.








This research seeks to investigate the effect of gender and birth-order on the display of creativity among teenage students between the ages of 12-17yrs. Since researches done show conflicting results, this study seeks to find out how it applies to the adolescent community in Madina. Most of the studies on creativity are those done in other countries and confinements but literatures examining creativity testing in Ghana are few. The school was chosen because it has fair representation of children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and focus would be on one school due to the fact that students experience similar educational training. The location of the school was selected due to proximity to the researcher.



This is a research involving the study of the influence of two independent variables (Birth order and gender) on one dependent variable (creativity). These variables are operationally defined below:

Birth order: This refers to the participant’s position in the age hierarchy of siblings in his or her family. Because interest in birth order was limited to the effects of firstborn status on creativity, we created a dummy variable differentiating between firstborn and later born status. In addition, participants that indicate that they were adopted or fostered would be omitted from this study.


SEX: Male or female. This is purely physiological and has nothing to do with socio-cultural or personal perspective of who a female and male is.


Creativity: The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretation.


Statement of Hypotheses

With birth order and sex being independent variables and creativity being the dependent variable, the hypothesis is stated below:


H1- later-borns will score higher on the creativity test than first-borns

H2- females will score higher than males on the creativity test

H3- there will be positive significant relationship between birth order and creativity.






The population for the study comprised of male and female pupils between the ages of 12yrs to 17yrs, of equal socio-economic background in the Junior High School (JHS) class of Gina International School located in the heart of Libya Quarters, Madina, Accra. Fifty-two (52) pupils out of the total population were randomly selected for the study. Twenty-six (26) of the pupils were male and twenty-six (26) were female. The selection was done such that in every male and female category, thirteen (13) were Firstborns and the other thirteen (13) were Laterborns.

Research Design

The research design chosen for this study is ……… research design. This design was choosen because……..

Procedure for Data collection

A sample consisting of 52 pupils were placed in a large classroom and given the creativity test (see appendix). They were provided with pencils and erasers and instructed to draw ten circular shaped objects that have not been seen before. The subjects were widely spaced in the class in order to promote individual work and they were not given any particular time frame within which to work. This was to ease tension and allow the students develop creative ideas at their own pace.

Scoring of Data

Since the study was an experimental research on creativity, the scale used to measure creative ability was the famous Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) (see appendix). It offers individual measures for fluency, originality, abstractness, elaboration and resistance to closure (Birdwhistell, 2000). Fluency is the ability to produce a large number of alternative images. In this experiment however, it involved a simple count of relevant images and the non related ones discarded. Originality reflects the subject’s ability to produce novel or special images that require creative abilities. Scoring for this measure was by recording (1) for unusual responses and a (0) for common ones. Abstractness is the creative ability to sense the idea behind a problem and transfer it into a response, in this case an image. This was scored by a subject’s ability to transform the verbal instructions given into abstract representations on paper. Elaboration reflects a subject’s ability to develop and elaborate an idea. In this case, short or brief ideas scored a (0) and more elaborate ideas scored (1). Lastly, resistance to closure involves a subject’s ability to resist the simplest solution which often doesn’t have creative contents. In scoring this measure, attempts at progressing on a task was awarded a (1), otherwise a (0) was earned.


The results were imputed into SPSS software and analyzed using the two way Anova for H1 and H2 and Pearson’s Product Moment to analyze H3. This is because H1 and H2 have to do with comparing the means of two independent variables [sex and birth-order] on one dependent variable [creativity], whiles H3 has to do with correlation of two variables on at least an interval scale.




Descriptive statistics and correlations among the variables are presented as follows.


Hypotheses Testing

Hypothesis one

Hypothesis two

The findings were however interesting as


Hypothesis three

Summary of pearson’s





The study was aimed at exploring whether there would be birth-order and gender differences in creative performance of the various 52 participants.

The first hypothesis was



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