If you look at stereotypical traits associated with first-born children (at least, according to birth order theory) – an aptitude for leadership, a desire to achieve, a tendency to shoulder burdens – then you could see Bill, the oldest Weasley sibling, as fairly typical. He was first to be Head Boy, and he seemed to take that high achievement forward into his adult life. He was undoubtedly confident and a clear, natural leader: heading off Egypt to be a curse breaker, sweeping Fleur Delacour off her feet, becoming an integral part of the Order of the Phoenix.
But he wasn’t typical in every sense. As Ginny once said, Bill liked adventure and glamour, so he could be unpredictable. He might have been a high-achiever, but he was pretty easy-going. And although he stepped up to support his family, he didn’t always do what his mother wanted – whether cutting his hair, losing the fang earring, or not marrying Fleur.
So while you couldn’t really call him a rebel, he wasn’t exactly a shining beacon of superiority. Bill might have been one of seven, but he was very much his own person.
Those who think birth order influences personality sometimes say second-born children like Charlie Weasley are more competitive, and inclined to develop abilities that mark them out as different from their older sibling. In part, this is because they want to capture attention, although they’re also typically seen as more independent.
Again, Charlie was stereotypical in some ways. His Quidditch-playing abilities showed his skill and probably did give him an outlet to be competitive. Plus, the fact that he was Quidditch Captain and not Head Boy gave him a different identity to Bill. He was pretty independent, too, given he chose to study dragons and move to Romania.
But he wasn’t exactly an attention-seeker, and he never seemed that bothered about attracting his parents’ approval. In fact, his life in Romania meant he kind of opted-out of a lot of Weasley family dynamics. So, again, the jury is out.
In some ways, Percy was a more stereotypical ‘older’ child than Bill – sensible, authoritative, superior on occasion. He certainly did not share either of his older brothers’ easygoing attitude, although he did follow in Bill’s footsteps by becoming Head Boy.
But, while being the third-born in a family of seven meant Percy couldn’t quite claim middle-child status, he was pretty stereotypically middle-child in outlook. His personality meant he stood out in the laid-back Weasley family – pompous, fussy, and bossy were all words used to describe Percy. And of course, there was the whole disowning-his-family-to-further-his-career thing. He even said he’d been struggling against his father’s reputation since joining the Ministry, which was a low blow to his family.
But perhaps Percy acted how he did because he felt left-out, which is another stereotypical middle-child trait. Being sandwiched in between two easygoing, popular older brothers and the devil-may-care prankery of Fred and George can’t have been easy. So carving out a reputation as a serious, hard-working professional at least gave him an identity other than that of Weasley sibling.
Fred was born slightly before his twin George which technically makes him the middle Weasley child, but as Fred and George always came as a pair (sob) we couldn’t separate them for the purposes of this list. Perhaps it’s because they came as a pair that birth order stereotypes don’t seem to apply to this duo. They might be a twosome, but they were one-of-a-kind when it came to the wider Weasley family. After all, nobody else jacked in full-time education, was ambitious enough to open a shop, or had the imagination to create magical products that were bulk-ordered by the Ministry (Shield Hats, anyone?)
Individually, Fred was perhaps the more confident of the two. His name was mentioned more often in the books, and it was often Fred who instigated their pranks, although George obviously did more than his fair share of trickery. By contrast, George was slightly more sympathetic than his twin. He was, generally, the one who smoothed things over, as when he suggested they tone down their letter to Ludo Bagman after he refused to pay their Quidditch Cup winnings.
But whichever way you slice it, it’s hard see either Fred or George as stereotypical middle children. Everything they did was designed to surprise, so it’s actually no surprise that they don’t fit the mould.
And so we come to Ron. The youngest brother, but not the youngest sibling, Ron seemed to think he had the worst deal when it came to his family. One of the first things he talked to Harry about was how difficult he found constantly following in his brother’s footsteps:
‘Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first.’
Later, when the Mirror of Erised revealed his true desire, Ron saw himself standing outside the shadow of his elder siblings for once in his life. These feelings of resentment reared their head on other occasions too. His friendship with Harry also meant he was often overshadowed, and that later led him to jealously reject Harry when he was declared a Triwizard Champion. And, obviously, it also led him to abandon the Horcrux hunt during Deathly Hallows – something which, it was later revealed, was partly due to that feeling of being overshadowed which had begun in his childhood. As the Horcrux-Riddle-apparition revealed, in his darkest thoughts, Ron had felt:
‘Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter…’
That particular worry was probably in Ron’s head, but Ron didn’t seem to receive any of the apparent benefits stereotypically associated with being a younger member of the family. He didn’t get extra parental attention, he wasn’t spoiled or particularly looked after by his older siblings. Not that Ginny was, either, but she did at least stand out purely because she was the only girl. Poor old Ron was always just the last Weasley brother.
Stereotypically, the youngest child can be charming, outgoing and fond of attention. When it comes to Ginny, two out of three isn’t bad. As she grew older she proved popular and confident, but she didn’t go out of her way to seek the limelight. The Bat Bogey Hex she performed on Zacharias Smith might have brought her to the attention of Professor Slughorn, for example, but she didn’t exactly embrace the opportunity.
Ginny’s first couple of years at Hogwarts were less successful – remember when she used to blush every time Harry looked at her? Oh, yes, and that time she went and inadvertently opened the Chamber of Secrets. But even that was not the action of a spoiled, reckless youngest child ready to charm her way out of trouble. No, when the time came, Ginny freely confessed that she’d been taken over by the ghost of Tom Riddle, because she’d been writing in his diary all year.
And why did Ginny write in the diary? Well, because Tom Riddle seemed to listen to all her worries:
‘how her brothers tease her, how she had to come to school with second-hand robes and books... how she didn’t think famous, good, great Harry Potter would ever like her…’
These are not the worries of a happy, content youngest child. Looks like Ginny sometimes felt as insecure as Ron. Perhaps they had more in common than either of them thought.
In conclusion: families are complicated. But, all in all, it seems like being a Weasley was more about the bigger picture than their individual experiences. Even Percy came to his senses in the end.