Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I can play well with others, I just want them to play PERFECTLY

I usually think this stuff is crap (and it probably is, let's face it), but the cutting-edge behavioral scientists that work for my MSN homepage led me to find this interesting today. I'm not sure if I think determining elements of your personality based on your birth order is just a hop, skip and use of fancy terminology away from reading your horoscope to figure out what kind of day you're going to have, but who knows? And as with all pseudo-research, the article ends with, "But this might not be true at all." That's usually my favorite part. Also the fact that the only thing they say about twins is, yeahhh, they're, like, pretty much the same, you know? They should've followed that up with, "I mean, just LOOK at them!" It's funny that they base that on equal status and being treated similarly instead of being, I don't know, genetically identical?

Whatever, though, I don't know anything about twins. People always, always, ALWAYS say to me, "You don't seem like an only child," but that's only because the perception is that onlys don't play well with others, prefer being alone, blah blah. I have a friend who had a baby a couple years ago and is thinking about not having any more; she recently had a conversation with me about the pros and cons of being one. The description below sounds like a more succinct version of the answer that I gave her.

Here's a portion of the article:

First Borns:
More conscientious, ambitious and aggressive than their younger siblings, first borns are over-represented at Harvard and Yale as well as disciplines requiring higher education such as medicine, engineering or law. Every astronaut to go into space has been either the oldest child in his or her family or the eldest boy. And throughout history -- even when large families were the norm -- more than half of all Nobel Prize winners and U.S. presidents have been first born.

Middle children are more easygoing and peer-oriented. Since they can get lost in the shuffle of their own families, they learn to build bridges to other sources of support and therefore tend to have excellent people skills. Middle children often take on the role of mediator and peacemaker.

The youngest child tends to be the most creative and can be very charming -- even manipulative. Because they often identify with the underdog, they tend to champion egalitarian causes. (Youngest siblings were the earliest backers of the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment.)

Only Children:
Only children have similar characteristics to first borns and are frequently burdened with high parental expectations. Research shows they are more confident, articulate and likely to use their imagination than other children. They also expect a lot from others, hate criticism, can be inflexible and are likely to be perfectionists.

Because they hold equal status and are treated so similarly, twins turn out similarly in most cases.

Dr. Frank Sulloway, a behavioral scientist and visiting professor at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at University of California, Berkeley and author of the book, "Born To Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics and Creative Lives," says first borns are more similar in personality to first borns in other families than they are to their own younger siblings and that youngest children are often more similar to the youngest child in another family than his or her own elder siblings. He says this is because the family is not as much a "shared environment" as a set of niches that provide siblings with different outlooks.

Conley agrees, but stresses that these are just general trends -- and that the whole birth-order theory can be turned on its head depending on the child's personality, the age gap between siblings and the family circumstances each child experiences during his or her formative years.

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