Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sibling Rivalry Among Britain's Children

This is the last of my posts about the course on Australian National Identity, and the most tentative.

I have been thinking about the relations among the four or five nations of the "white commonwealth" as a sibling rivalry. In Sulloway's theory, siblings are competing for parental attention. First-born gets first choice. First-born usually takes the path of being most like the parents, leaving other ways of being distinctive to the later-borns, and the path of exceptionalism to the last. However, if the first chooses not to be like the parents, then that role is available for the laters, especially the second.

The USA is eldest. We chose to rebel. Canada, the second, is the most dutiful. Australia, the third, yearns to be like the eldest, but is not so rebellious. New Zealand, the fourth, is defined as the dutiful in relation to the third, whose attention it is always trying to get. South Africa is the wild child.

Let me take this speculation to a further length. The Hanover kings were famous for their terrible relations with their fathers, the previous king. Each of the Georges rebelled against the previous George.

USA rebelling against England :: George IV rebelling against George III.


halifax said...

All of the Hanovers rebelled against their fathers, except for George III whose father Prince Frederick died when George III was only 13 (and while George II was still alive). Early in George III's reign, he was also spared of any significant opposition from inside his family by the mere fact that he became king before he became a father.

Lewis Namier argues that the absence of an heir early in George III reign rendered the opposition leaderless, and, thus, encouraged some of George's more rigid policies toward the Americans.

And, while Canada might indeed be classified as the dutiful second offspring, Quebec would have to be the red-headed stepchild.

Kelly said...

That's an interesting take, and your characterization of each country seems to fit. I was thinking, though, that they don't really fit with the standard family roles we all learn about in Psych 101, with Canada taking the traditional 1st child role, etc. I'm the oldest of two, and my little brother and I fit the stereotypes really well, so I've always thought it was a pretty accurate theory, but your post got me thinking:
Do you think, or do you know (from research, studies, etc) if the role descriptions are more of a nature or nurture thing? In terms of actual siblings, not countries, do the stereotypes hold true across cultures? Are they an American (USA) construct? Or do they fit most Western and/or industrialized nations?
I think of us, in the US, as being similar to Canada, Western Europe and Australia, and to a lesser extent South Africa, specifically, but as being very different from China and Japan. I really don't know about many other African countries, or the Middle East. Are there similarities in terms of sibling order characteristics? I figure if something extends across multiple, not that similar cultures, it's likely to be nature, not nurture, at least to some extent.
Of course I realize I think this applies to the "children" of the British that you talked about, so maybe that's my answer. I also realize you might not have any information about this topic, but I thought you or your commenters might have some insight or thoughts.

Gruntled said...

I prefer Sulloway's theory to the Psych 101 version because the roles are dynamic. Usually the first is this way, but if not, then that role is open to the second. As to cross-cultural testing, all I have to go on is Sulloway's tests with historical revolutions (Darwinian, American, French, Reformation, etc.). That, and the sheer Darwinian logic of it, makes sense to me as a universal.