Sunday, 19 July 2009

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

It's my big brother's birthday on Tuesday, and having just spoken to him (through the wonders of the internet, as he is in New Zealand) I thought perhaps it would be nice to make a special mention to the wonder that is The Sibling.

For those who have them, the relationship we have with our siblings is one which we often overlook in its importance to our development, instead placing the make-up of our identity squarely on the shoulders of our parents. What we seem to forget is that our earliest social interaction (with a peer group) is with our brothers and sisters, and in particular, birth order is believed to have a profound and lasting effect on psychological development. According to research, first born children typically like to have control, often attempting to keep parents' attention through conformity; or if this fails, through misbehaving. (And according to Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler, firstborns are "dethroned" when a second child comes along, and this may have a lasting influence on them).

Youngest children are often the most pampered and protected, looked upon as the baby of the family, and therefore even when they are older they expect others to take over responsibilities. Middle children are usually rebellious, forced to create a sense of uniqueness in order to gain attention from their parents, and in most cases play the role of peacemaker. 'One important modern theory of personality states that the Big Five personality traits of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism represent most of the important elements of personality that can be measured. Contemporary approaches to birth order frequently suggest that birth order influences these five traits.' (Source: Wikipedia)

I have two brothers - one older and one younger - and the three of us could not be more different on paper. My older brother is a strong, charming, insouciant character, passionate about cooking, hunting, and tending his vegetable garden. My younger brother is a clever, dry-witted, well-researched technology expert, with a sensitivity to thought-provoking film and music. Though I am sure they don't realise it, both of my brothers have taught me things - about people, about life and about myself - that have in turn helped define who I am. (Yes, they also used to break my stuff and give me chinese burns, but that too has probably had an effect on who I am today... hopefully positive). And yet despite our differences in personality, we all have one thing in common: we don't live life by the rules. And I like that.

My brothers and I subscribe to our own individualities, our own theories, and we stick by them. And we stick by each other (although we might not admit it in public). Not one of us chooses to conform to the typical mould that is offered to us pre-adulthood; it's our way, or nothing. And for that, my bruvvas, I salute you.

Nelson Siblings, 1984
{Edit: the birth order traits appear to be spot on here!)  
Interesting reading: The Sibling Bond

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