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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sibling strivings, 31 Jan 2006
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Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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The role of siblings within the family and beyond has received attention for many years. Sulloway pulls together a mass of research, including his own to find patterns deriving from family structure. Using a strong evolutionary stance, he shows how "sibling rivalry" for resources extends into later life. This sweeping study keeps the reader's attention with clear, straightforward prose and a refreshingly direct approach. It will keep other students of human behaviour working for many years.
The general pattern, examined within larger social, political, religious and scientific arenas, shows how later-borns become the flexible, innovative thinkers. While, necessarily, only a few become actual creators of new ideas, they more readily accept fresh concepts. Later-borns learn to adapt in the family environment - it's a survival trait. First-borns, and Sulloway notes the difference between chronological and "functional" first-borns, cling to a conservative stance. Even if the parents are radical thinkers, their first-borns will adhere to their way of thinking. Later-borns in such a circumstance are more likely to depart from the family's stance, adhering to more conservative social or political ideas. The disparity in attitudes is the norm within the family, not necessarily across family boundaries.
Throughout the book, Sulloway frequently turns to Darwin as a case study in strengthening his thesis. It's a wise choice, since Darwin is emblematic of what Sulloway asserts. middle-class, middle sibling, middle-aged at the peak of his achievements, Darwin exemplifies most of Sulloway's criteria for distinguishing birth order as a personality driver. Sulloway concedes that the focus on Darwin is a logical result of the naturalist's showing the world how evolution works. The traits he describes have biological roots, intensified by the human condition. Human families have a long time to build the patterns he describes. Since Sulloway's thesis shows that cultural and socio-economic factors have little or no bearing on the evolutionary patterns established, previous dogmas will have to be revised or discarded. In more than one sense he's duplicating Darwin's own experience.
The book concludes with a series of Appendices explaining how Sulloway built his database of events and people. He uses 121 historical "revolutions" and nearly two dozen scientific ones, as well as the Reformation to support his thesis. The criteria for selection are given and explained. He's not averse to challenges by other scholars, but they'd best have their data firmly in hand. He's buttressed his case admirably. Only one serious challenge to Sulloway's effort has emerged since this book was published. Readers should be aware of Judith Rich Harris' critique of Sulloway's methods in the Appendix of her The Nurture Assumption. This is not the place to examine the debate, but both should be reviewed by readers. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fine, 4 July 2014
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A good read, but maybe not the easiest.
I did not imagin it to be so political and historical. looking back in time. But i found something in that which made personal meaning.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 23 Mar 2012
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A somewhat academic view of our position in the family determining our character & behaviour . I can now spot an adult 'eldest child' at 50 paces.Fascinating.
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Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives
Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives by Frank J. Sulloway (Hardcover - Nov 1996)
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