Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Sibling Effect


 Are you an older sister/younger brother/middle child?
An only?
 Of late I'm enthralled with books on birth order and child-rearing. Jeffrey Kluger's The Sibling Effect is an eye-opener and life-changing in how I view my older sister.
 Photo Istanbul Street Kittens
Listen to a terrific interview with Kluger on NPR. I'll be quoting him liberally here.
'What goes on in the playroom is a little bit like kittens wrestling. Kittens aren't really trying to hurt one another when they bite each other in the neck. They always hold back. But what they learn when they're wrestling is what they'll use later when they do kill a mouse'.
 What is it with older sisters/brothers vs. younger sibs?
'true that firstborns will be the most successful.
They will be the ones who earn the most.
They will be the ones who are most loyal to the family, most driven to achieve in traditional ways.
They will also be the tallest, even if it's only by a few centimeters, and they tend to have higher IQs by about 3 points over the second-born.
Rules are looser for younger sibs and they get priviledges earlier - they tend to be wilder, more innovative, more empathic, more observant.
mais oui
 Does this carry over into later life?
Does it effect how we deal with others?
I recently chatted with an old friend who bosses me around.
I asked her,"Are you an older sister?"
"Of course." she said.
Ha. That explains everything.
 What about 'onlys'?
'Kids who grow up in a single-child playroom and kids who grow up in a multiple-child playroom tend to have different approaches to the world and tend to have somewhat different conflict resolution skills'.
 '21 of the first 23 astronauts were either firstborns or onlys'
 Were you a middle-born child?
 Middle children sometimes lose out on special attention but they develop coping skills by becoming observant.
 Perhaps you're a member of a large family?
Birth order can change with divorce/remariage sometimes in your favor or not.
So many variations on a theme.
 Were you Mom's favorite?
Or Dad's?
 Younger sibs may or may not mimic their older sibs. 'Siblings who hope to stand out in a family often do so by observing what the older child does and then doing the opposite'. Boy, me to a T.
 My niece says my sister and I are different as chalk and cheese.
Yet Kluger repeatedly points out, your siblings are the ones who know you longest and best.
'To have  siblings and not make the most of that resource is squandering one of the greatest interpersonal resources you'll ever have'.
Kluger's book is full of personal family anecdotes (often hilarious) balanced with scientific data.
Read the 1st chapter on Amazon and see if you're not hooked.
Bonjour Siblings!

27 comments:

  1. Very interesting Carol, and the pictures are lovely, as always. My son is an only. I am a first born. I am curious about the book and will get it this week. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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  2. I am going to send this to my daughters..
    It's been of interest to me for a long time..so much of it rings true:) You are right in saying so many things can change the patterns though..

    Stepsisters..brothers..adoptions..losing children.. deaths..oh so much comes into play..You can be the youngest in a family.. and be the "Baby" and then when the parents pass..you become the oldest..on your own..

    Love the photos ..particularly the first..I think I had a coat like that..being the baby in the family:)

    My husband is a middle child of 5..and totally independant.. never looks for approval..just his own person..My daughter has a middle child..so sweet:) There is an only child w/ 2 steps..and an older boy and baby boy..I will be following and seeing:)

    Great food for thought!

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  3. Fascinating comment Nana!
    I too had a coat like that with a velvet collar...

    Veronique - onlys/1sts often have onlys in my experience...

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  4. I'm an only. I really always wanted a sib. May be why I cherish my friends so much.I have always enjoyed reading, drawing, learning, thinking, just on my own or in the company of my pets, but just as ready to go have fun with my pals.

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  5. Fascinating. I'm the oldest, have one other sibling - a younger brother. I stopped calling him my "little" brother and torturing him the day he knocked me to the floor and then held me there...

    yeah, it was payback.

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  6. I feel like a classic younger sib - and am married to another classic youngest sib - he's the youngest of 4 kids.

    That part about money is an eye-opener, youch! Glad I never heard about being doomed to a lower income earlier in life.

    I was surprised and heartened to see that Stephen Colbert, one of my heroes, is the youngest of 11 children!

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  7. That is so interesting! Thank you for
    the post, and the beautiful pics, as
    always!

    Jane
    Flora Doora

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  8. I've always found birth order in families to be fascinating. I'm a middle child, "the problem child" as my mom called me, for years. always the mediator in the mix, too. It's a stressful place to be, but then, aren't they all!!

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  9. Very interesting!
    I have an older brother - he was always a jerk :)

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  10. I'm the youngest.

    Brother is 8 years older and definitely does not have a higher IQ than I!!!

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  11. I'm the oldest of two children. My sister and I are very close, fortunately. I use to beg my mother for a brother, but since we had an abusive father, it was a good thing she didn't have any more. The one thing we absolutely share in common is loving to eat raw chocolate chip cookie dough.

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  12. omg, Carol this was so interesting .. thanks for sharing it .. I must check out the book.

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  13. As an elder sister, I feel it my duty to start bossing you around. Go eat some macs!

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  14. Big surprise Jeanette!
    You have ALWAYS boss me around
    & you never pay attention when I give you orders.
    hmph

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  15. But then there are many articles on how birth order is not as important as Kluger says.

    I can find examples to fit & not. I think it really depends on the personality of the parents.

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  16. Very interesting! I am the second and oldest girl. we went boy,girl,boy,girl. My mom had an easy out when we would ask her who her fav was.. 'oh your my fav big boy', 'your my fav little girl', you get the idea...lol!! I have a son, my one and only:))
    We all have our spot, don't we?
    Great post!

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  17. Susan H.5:06 PM

    Loved the sibling post
    I'm the older sister....full of responsibility and level-headedness...

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  18. I'm an only child born to a loner Mother with an out going Father. Interesting combination. Loved the first photo of the two girls in those adorable coats.

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  19. I was an only. Conversely, a friend of mine with a sister has to have someone sit with her while she eats. My ex-husband was the second of two boys and angrily lived in his brother gigantic shadow. I hope they're friendly now.

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  20. I was an only for 10 years then my mother finally got me a baby brother.
    He wasn't that much fun after all but we kept him.
    I got to babysit when I was older and I loved that but 10 years made it hard for us to be as close as I would have liked. we still love each other so I guess that is what is important :)

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  21. Well, my first thought was "balony" but out of respect I'll just say that none of it rings true for my own 3 children. Second boy the tallest, all of them are smart and talented in their own field and make a good living.

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  22. Carol, the pictures you chose to illustrate this story are incredibly poignant and beautiful. They make you stop and try to look deeper and wonder. What a joy to behold, merci beaucoup!

    Jeffrey Kluger? "'Kids who grow up in a single-child playroom and kids who grow up in a multiple-child playroom tend to have different approaches to the world and tend to have somewhat different conflict resolution skills'. Who'd have guessed?

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  23. Joyfulartist,

    Not every shoe fits every foot.
    Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but there's way too much interesting information on family constellations in this book to dismiss in my humble opinion.

    Listen to the NPR interview - much more informing than I can possibly be here..

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  24. Fascinating - this looks a super book! I'm the eldest with a younger, taller brother but I think I have a big sister, don't you think, Carol? Tease.

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  25. I am the oldest of 8 (6 brothers, 1 sister).

    My childhood ended by the time I was 10.
    I think there is nothing to envy an oldest child, but somehow all those "experts" are judging the eldest harshly.
    Must be all younger siblings. ;-) *hehe*

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  26. Afraid I've always known, as oldest of three, and an artist, and the one who "went away" to the big city for college. that I continue to be the Favorite son. I talked to Kluger on a local call-in talk show in Philly, about how my two brothers and I deal with our 99 year old still very independent (mostly) father.
    My 3 adult sons have no problem expressing their love for each other. All very fascinating, for sure.
    Great post, Carol.
    Is Bear an only cub?

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  27. ah I WISH I was the tallest out of my siblings! I'm the first born and the shortest. Even my 12 year old sister is taller than I am. This looks like an interesting read. I will have to buy it one of these days.

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