How many times have you been asked this question? I bet many, many times. It’s that birth order theory. You know the one: when you were born in relation to your siblings makes you who you are. (Just yesterday, someone in my yoga class asked me if I was the youngest sibling. “Nope,” I said with some satisfaction, “I’m the oldest.” As is often the case, she was dead wrong.)
So, What Have You Heard?
If you are using an e-reader or tablet that allows you to make notes, you can write your answers to this and all the other exercises in the book. Otherwise, you can keep some paper handy and write there. Or you can consider your answers and ideas and see how they compare to what experts and other readers have to say.
Think of and write down at least three words to describe what you’ve heard about birth order, for oldest child, middle child, and youngest child.
Then see how your descriptions line up with some of the standard characteristics.
In 1961, a man by the name of Walter Toman got the birth order theory off and running in a book titled Family Constellations: Its Effects on Personality and Social Behavior. Since then, folks have argued whether or not birth order, more than anything else, determines our personality and how we get along outside the family.
Actually, Toman details eight basic birth order positions:
Whew! And as if that’s not enough, Toman also has portraits of the male only and female only child.
The problem is: most studies have failed to show that the order in which we’re born affects who we are. (One major exception is a study by Frank J. Sulloway, who found that over the last four hundred years, the most important scientists in the world were younger than at least one sibling in their family.)
Birth order is not so different than your astrological sign. You may find some characteristics that match and some that don’t. For example, I’m a Leo. And as the lion, I am supposed to be: creative, passionate but also self-centered, lazy, and someone who likes expensive things. Well, some of that is accurate (creative, passionate) but some is way off base (lazy, self-centered). At least, that’s my opinion.
Don’t get me wrong: birth order is a factor in who we are and our relationships outside of the family. But it’s only one of many influences on how we see ourselves and our family ties.
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