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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Youngest, Oldest, Only, Or Middle—What Does Your Birth Order Say About You?

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Have you ever looked at your siblings and wondered what makes them tick? Why, for instance, is your oldest brother or sister so driven, so exacting, so uncompromising? How about the baby in your family? Why can't he/she settle down? Why does he/she treat life like one big party, refusing to take anything seriously? And what about you? What makes you so demanding or so laidback or so serious-minded? Does it have anything to do with your siblings and the order in which you all came into the same family? Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist who's written more than 30 books on marriage, parenting and other family relationships, believes it does.

In The Birth Order Book (I read the Revised and Updated version, published in 2009), Dr. Leman discusses the idea of birth order influencing people's actions and personalities. While he admits the concept can't explain everything about a person or a family (both of which are affected by a virtually limitless list of variables throughout its lifetime), he presents pretty strong evidence to support his claims. We all know the birth order stereotypes: oldest children and only children are aggressive, goal-oriented people; middle children are easygoing, natural peacemakers; youngest kids are fun-loving comedians. Dr. Leman explains why this is so often the case. Of course, families don't always work out so predictably, but the psychologist has reasons for this, too, and, while some of his theories seem a little too convenient, a lot of them make a lot of sense.

In addition to talking about the usual stereotypes, Dr. Leman also talks about how birth order is affected by things like divorce, death, adoption, and so on. Using vivid examples, he shows how families evolve because of these kinds of life changes. His evaluations aren't always spot-on (I could think of exceptions to just about all of his rules), but more often than not, they are. It's fascinating. Not to mention a little eerie.

Besides using it to psychoanalyze yourself and others, of what use is the information in The Birth Order Book? Well, according to Dr. Leman, knowing about birth order can help you better understand your spouse (leading to a stronger marriage), your children (helping you become a better parent) and even the clients you may encounter at work (creating a more successful business as well as a larger personal income). He gives specific ideas for doing each of these things, using examples from both his professional and personal lives.

Will Dr. Leman's obvious enthusiasm for his subject make a believer out of you? Maybe or maybe not, but either way, The Birth Order Book is a fun, easy read that will have you looking at your siblings—not to mention everyone you encounter—in a whole new light.

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG (It's been a little while since I read this book, but I don't remember anything offensive)

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find


  1. Ha ha! I love seeing youngest children described as "fun-loving comedian" because my brother just older than me is that. I'm the youngest and frankly, I might be more middle child personality. Or maybe that's just what I want to be :)

  2. This one would probably be an interesting read. I have 10 siblings I wonder if they'd all fit his mold. I'm the youngest and I don't think I'm a huge party person but I think my family wishes I'd "settle down". Hmmm, I might have to read this one someday.

  3. My birth order (oldest) says that I'm bossy and like to take charge. But I've never really been aggressive, so I say no to that one!

  4. Well, ladies, like I said I could find exceptions to every birth order rule, but still, I found the author to be right more often than not. My husband, for instance, is a totally stereotypical first child and I'm a pretty stereotypical middle child, although I think I have some first child tendencies. Whether or not you believe in the whole birth order thing, I think it's fascinating!


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