Book No. 34 – The Sibling Effect

5 Mar

Book number 34 is called The Sibling Effect by Jeffrey Kluger. It is often said that the most important relationship you will have in your life as far as determining what your future will be like, is with your parents. BUT in this book Jeffrey Kluger states that one equally, if not more important, commonly overlooked relationship is the relationship we have with our siblings. We never stop to think how growing up with a sister and a brother may shape our futures, or ponder the fate of a single child household. I grew up in a 2 sibling household with a sister who is just 16 months older than me. My mom grew up in a 4 child household in which she has 3 other sisters. My dad grew up in a 5 sibling household with 4 boys and 1 girl, the youngest boy died at age 18. Both my parents are the 2nd oldest sibling in their families. Just an interesting coincidence, I suppose. So, what does all of this say about us? Well, first and foremost, the oldest child is generally the smartest child, the one that gets into the better college and ends up working in a well paying respectable profession. This is explained by the fact that the eldest sibling gets more one on one mentoring with the parents when they are younger, so they get an IQ advantage since they are the exclusive focus of their parents attention. Many parents often tend to focus on the older child even later in life, even though many are unaware that they are doing it. Now, middle children tend to get less attention from their parents, often feeling overlooked or invisible, and many even hold a little bit of resentment towards the sibling that does get the attention. This causes middle children to tend to be more social people often having many different friends, investing more in friendships than in family relationships. The youngest of the children (like me!) are very intelligent but in different ways than the eldest child.Youngest kids develop a greater ability to get inside the minds of people, charming them, relating to them and usually learning how to get whatever it is that they want. Being the youngest and smallest, you can’t get what you want by beating up your other siblings so we have to disarm them by being funny, witty, cute, etc. The youngest siblings have to learn early on to have a better intuitive sense. Growing up in a household full of sisters and brothers definitely has it’s advantages, but being the only child does as well. According to Kluger, only children tend to exceed other children in terms of academic accomplishments and often social skills as well. The only child tends to act more mature and adult like at an earlier age. I’m not really sure I agree with Kluger’s opinion on only children though. Mostly, because I have had very different encounters with people who are an only child.

In any 2 (or more) sibling household there will be a guaranteed amount of sibling rivalry and fighting. Which may seem like just a natural part of growing up, which it is, but it also helps you in the long run. Growing up with siblings helps teach you conflict resolution, compromise and working together to get things done. Often times, parents will try to mediate their children’s squabbles but in reality it is actually best to let them work it out themselves because it teaches them how to solve problems, which is a beneficial skill in life. If you have a physically intimidating, older sibling you will learn how to deal with situations like that, which is also a beneficial skill in life. Older siblings also tend to try to emulate a role model for their younger siblings taking on the role of mentor. Playing the role of mentor helps older siblings develop nurturing personalities and empathetic skills that otherwise they may not have.

Have you ever wondered how your life would be different if your parents had had given you a brother instead of a sister or vice versa. Well, let me tell you. Generally speaking, women who grow up in households with brothers tend to have a ruggedness or grimness to them and tend to do better in relating to the opposite sex. Boys that grow up with a sister or sisters tend to be more sensitive and have much better listening skills than kids who grew up with brothers or as only children. And yes, men who grow up with sisters often do better with getting women. Obviously. We like guys who listen to us. So, take note boys!!

So many forces affect the bond and nature of two peoples relationships. The sibling relationship is often affected by their parents and sometimes it is affected in a very negative way. Parents can show favoritism to one sibling, which can cause hurt feelings and long lasting emotional problems for the least favorite. Kluger states that first born children are most likely to be the favorites because parents invest the most time and energy into them and they tend to be taller and stronger. BUT mothers tend to show the youngest more compassion. He also claims that most parents DO have a favorite child, however most of them will never admit it. Usually, the father will favor his youngest daughter or the only daughter and the mother will favor her youngest son or only son. This holds true in my dads family. His mother clearly favors his youngest brother Pat, whereas, his father blatantly and annoyingly (in my opinion) favors his oldest and only daughter, Cathy. My dad says that growing up in his household it was always clear who the favorite children were and that yes, it did hurt his feelings and he often felt over looked and not good enough. My sister and I have often speculated on which of us is my moms favorite and which of us is my dads. It’s hard to say, because parent – children relationships are constantly changing. When I was little I was such a mommas girl and I had an almost unhealthy attachment to her. I would cry when she left for work in the morning without saying goodbye, I would sneak into her bed at night or plead with her to come sleep in my room, and I could never really have sleepovers because I missed her too much. As I got older however, my mom and I weren’t really as close and she began to develop a tightly knit relationship with my sister while I grew closer to my dad. I always felt that my dad and I had the same way of thinking, but as of late, i’m no longer sure. My mom went through a period during my high school years where she CLEARLY favored my sister. Which was hurtful, and made me turn further away from her. Kluger says that parents often favor the child that they can see themselves in. If this is true, then my dad would favor my sister and so would my mother. Which means i’m the odd one out, overlooked, undervalued, etc. Which in truth is often how I felt at least through out my high school years, which is probably why I was hardly ever home and always out galavanting with my friends. Even now, I feel as though my parents idolize my sister; the determined, focused, brave adventurer. And then there is me. The one who muddles through life unsure of what to make of it. Every child needs to find their niche in their family to feel like they are truly a part of it. The smart one. The funny one. The athletic one. The pretty one. And so on. Parents often label their children as such. As they should, I suppose, since it is the truth. But it does feel as though by being labeled like this, our other abilities are being cheapened. I remember when I was little, I was never labeled the smart one. I was always the pretty one. The skinny one. (my grandpa used to call me noodle for goodness sakes!) And I remember wishing more than anything that just ONCE someone would label me as the smart one. Nobody ever did. (I’m sure the smart one is reading this and wishing that just once they had been labeled the pretty one.) It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized other peoples perceptions and labels of me don’t matter and going to college made me realize I AM SMART. I’m not just the pretty one. I’m much more than any label anyone has ever given me. We all are. We can’t be defined in one word. “Smart.” “Pretty.” “Skinny.” Funny.” “Athletic.” They are just words. They don’t define the sum of who each of us is.

My parents say they don’t have a favorite and maybe that’s the truth, but I remain unconvinced. There is no questioning the fact that my parents love my sister and I equally, but truth can often times be cruel, and the truth is that they love both of us “differently.” A cold hard fact that must be acknowledged, but heartbreaking all the same.

We often don’t realize that sibling relationships can affect our lives but they do, and sometimes those relationships have lasting effects on us. One thing I can say for certain though, is that there is no greater bond, no closer form of intimacy than the bond of brotherhood or sisterhood. Siblings have an unconditional love for each other that can never be broken. And although, sometimes siblings fight, drift apart or even become estranged, there is not, nor will there ever be, a relationship like that of the one you share with your brothers and sisters.

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3 Responses to “Book No. 34 – The Sibling Effect”

  1. Roisin Mc Cormack March 6, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Strange, I was actually talking about this very subject with my friend last week. She was trying to convince me that because I am the middle child, I am the rebellious one who is most likely to go off track but that is totally not the case. I do completely agree with the fact that guys having a sister or sisters makes them more compatible with women though! Every little helps I guess :/

  2. D March 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    You forgot to say that your sister the “smart one” is also drop dead gorgeous and you the “pretty one” is not too shabby either in the brain department. And by the way , this mother loves both her children equally!!!!Mr. kluger you are dead wrong!!!!!!D

    • Taylor Jordan March 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      I know she is beautiful!! I was just trying to emphasize the labeling issue in stating that most people only associate us with those particular labels. Love you D!!

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