Saturday, 15 December 2007

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Having the privilege of doubling the size of my family through Jo, one of the things that has always intrigued me is the incredible similarity between Jo's sister and my sister, occurring despite both coming from significantly different cultures and backgrounds.
Now I am not going to specify in here the ways in which I consider the two to be similar, because absolutely anything that I will write in this context will earn me eternal family damnation. For the sake of argument, let's just say that the similarities are outside the scope of this blog as I do not intend to impose on the privacy of others who do not seek public exposure.
Now I wouldn't be writing the above if there was no breakthrough to report, and this week there was. An interesting post in a blog discussing evolutionary psychology expanded on the implications of the order between kids, and the arguments there went a long way in explaining the nature of the above mentioned sister similarities.
You can have a look at a summary of the findings in here and here, but I'll spare you and give you the highlights. Essentially, the arguments show once again how similar the science of evolution is to the science of economics:
A first born receives the full attention of his/her parents due to the very simple fact they have nothing else to pay attention to (note the high level of generalization here, which is an ongoing theme; exceptions are very likely). When the second child comes around, parents' attention is divided between the two, so the second child never receives as much attention as the older one used to receive before the younger one came along. Not only that, the young one has to compete for resources (i.e., parental attention), but he/she is competing with a severe handicap: the older child has years of advantage on them. From here on you can see the type of effects that this "economical" struggle can have, mainly that the older child is used to being at the center of things while the second is pushed towards becoming a rebel. Interestingly enough, with as many good intentions as possible, I find it hard to imagine parents that could avoid these traps.
Personally, I think I was very lucky on this front: I was the youngest child of three, so I was spoiled the way the youngest child normally gets spoiled. However, I had two advantages: First, the gap between me and my sister was wide enough for me to enjoy some of the privileges of the firstborn in addition to my youngest son privileges. And second, I had an uncle who took me in as if a parent, thus bestowing on me much more attention than a "normal" child receives (and indeed, I attribute a lot of the good things about me to my uncle).
I guess the relevant points to take from this affair is for all of us to be aware of the minor accident that is the order of our births and not to get too carried away with their effects. By being aware of these issues one should be able to counter them. Most of all, one should be careful before using arguments such as "my parents were evil", as it is obvious that the parents cannot be blamed for having to share their attentions.
To me, at this point in time, the main lesson is to do with the way we will be bringing Dylan up: I hope we will manage to do a good job there, but parenting does seem like it's going to be one of the tougher challenges I am going to encounter during this incarnation.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This reminds me very much about a book I read probably 10 years ago called "Born to rebel" which was a study of birth order on personality types. At the time I thought it was an interesting read but that was 10 years ago...

Moshe Reuveni said...

I just want to say that it's hard for me to relate to the above comment when all I know about its author is that he/she is probably more than 10 years old.

Anonymous said...

Above comment was from a female working in a certain state government department that hasn't restricted access to blogs! Great pictures of Dylan. Say hi to Jo for me, looking foward to her coming back, not sure if she has the same sentiments! Oh BTW http://www.sulloway.org/borntorebel.html if you are intersted in reading a blurb about the book, you might find it in the local library, I did.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Aha! So we have ourselves some intelligent feedback here. Welcome...
I had a look at your link and it looks interesting, but I doubt I'll ever have the time to further investigate it. To be honest, The Selfish Gene is enough to see through this one, although there it mainly discusses the parent to child relationship rather than the siblings' relationships.