Alfred Adler was a psychiatrist who developed the concept that birth order may have something to do with the way a personality develops. One thing he may have forgotten to explore was how the sibling’s age differential plays into it as well.
For example, the First Child Syndrome of tending to be the over achieving perfectionist seems to be reasonably accurate. Adler’s theory then refers to both a second child as well as to a middle child phenomenon.
In my brother’s case he was both second and middle, because there was a six-year gap between him and my sister. Adler states that a second child is more likely to become competitive in a quest to overtake the older sibling, but may also default instead to a more rebellious state because of frustrations encountered in this quest, whereas a true middle child tends to be even tempered and is more likely to become the family’s peace maker. My brother fit closer to the second child category as he was anything but a peacemaker who thrived mostly on making trouble. At the same time the trouble making had nothing constructive about it and in no way looked like an attempt to overtake me. He was just plain trouble.
Adler also indicates that the youngest family member usually ends up being categorized as the “baby” and either gets doted over, as was my father, or spoiled rotten, like my sister.
Perhaps a more enlightened analysis of personality is postulated by the Herrmann Brain Dominance theory, stating that personalities are a blend of four potentially dominating brain quadrants and that certain portions of the various quadrants predominate.
Generally speaking, personalities can be divided into A: Thinkers, B: Directors, C: Socializers, and D: Artists. Everyone’s personality contains certain elements of the four parts; to varying degrees.
However, no matter whatever theory one subscribes to, it is fairly well accepted that the overall personality usually becomes fixed or set like concrete at a very young age. Then like concrete, once the personality is set, it is very difficult to alter it, even with a sledge hammer. These theories also unfortunately do not take into account what to do when the personality map falls off the grid and spirals into the realm of the completely dysfunctional.
For example in the A category, what is it that makes the difference between an astrophysicist and a master criminal? And for B, what is the fine line between an eloquent politician and a brutal dictator?
These are the reasons that my father could never tell a joke; and why my brother had to go to a military academy to have his troubled soul subjected to regimentation. It also explains why to this very day, I do not get along with my sister (My Type A/B versus Her type C/D), why my father still believes that not only is she a disadvantaged weakling made vulnerable because of her gender, but also why in his eyes, why she cannot ever do anything wrong.
Trust me. My sister is anything but a wallflower, and generally speaking is selfish, slothful, manipulating and condescendingly opinionated. She is also a pseudo-Vegan retro- hippie who suffers from the imaginary malady of delusional parasitosis, which prompts a penchant to regular bowel cleansing regimens.
Then there are those individuals whose personalities may reside in the uncategorized E to Z part of the brain alphabet and explains why they sometimes end up in jail, in mental institutions or wind up dead in a street gutter.
Given this scientific analysis it becomes a complete mystery then, how Neolithic man waded through the parenting process when there was no Dr. Spock, no Dr. Adler and no Herrmann Brain Dominance patterns to fall back on for advice.
I seriously doubt these primitive men and women walked on eggshells or were overly paranoid about causing “permanent scars” in their children’s psyches if they used good old-fashioned disciplinary tactics or subscribed to the patented theory that children of all personality types should simply be seen and never heard. Somehow, I tend to believe instead that they fell back on more primal instincts, by either letting plain old-fashioned common sense prevail or by meting out a few welts with a hickory stick when it did not.
In fact when I moved to Tennessee, my office nurse, who grew up to be a plain old-fashioned, decent, ordinary citizen, and an average perfect blend of A,B,C, and D, told me that her mother arbitrarily hit all four of her children with a switch when they came home every day after school.
- Ouch. Ma. Why did you hit me?
- Because of what you probably did but shouldn’t have, what you didn’t do but were supposed to do, what you should do later but won’t do, or what you think you might want to do later but you shouldn’t do either.
Love is a boy, by poets styl’d,
Then spare the rod, and spoil the child.
|Graph: © Herman Brain Dominance Theory|