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Birth order, personality, and tattoos: A pre-registered empirical test of the ‘born to rebel’ hypothesis

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gareth RichardsORCiD, Dr Anthony Butler, Tinisha Osu



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Sulloway's ‘born to rebel’ hypothesis posits that later-borns develop personality characteristics which diverge from the status quo. Considering inconsistencies in the birth order literature as well as theoretical and methodological criticisms levied against this theory, we tested predictions derived from it using a sample of N = 2011 participants from the UK and Poland. We predicted later-borns would more likely have tattoos, and that this would be mediated by openness, risk-taking, sensation-seeking, and need for uniqueness. Tattooed individuals had higher risk-taking, sensation-seeking, and need for uniqueness, but birth order was not a predictor of having tattoos. Furthermore, although later-borns had higher risk-taking and sensation-seeking, they had lower need for uniqueness. Our results do not provide support for the ‘born to rebel’ hypothesis.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Richards G, Newman M, Butler A, Lechler-Lombardi J, Osu T, Krzych-Miłkowska K, Galbarczyk A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Personality and Individual Differences

Year: 2023

Volume: 204

Print publication date: 01/04/2023

Online publication date: 16/12/2022

Acceptance date: 06/12/2022

Date deposited: 06/12/2022

ISSN (print): 0191-8869

ISSN (electronic): 1873-3549

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2022.112043


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