Recently, I have been interested in thinking more critically about birth order, especially within my own family. Particularly, I have been wondering if there could be a connection between the rigidness of birth order expressed in children and the political ideologies of the family, mainly the parents. I know that it is nearly impossible to compare specific families, especially combine with their political views. For this reason, I will be focusing on my own family and personal experiences. I want to explore the idea that dynamic choices for children are not invalidated by parents, a child in a liberal family will likely feel comfortable choosing different paths. But, those paths might likely relate to the parents and those family ideologies.
A little background- I am the third of four sisters. My eldest sister, Nettie, is 25, living in New York city working for a publishing company. The second born, Maggie, is 23, currently applying to medical school, working at a veterinary office in my hometown. I am 21, currently attending Centre College. Finally, my little sister, Ellie, is 19, and attends the University of Louisville.
To examine my own families birth order, I will discuss the education and career paths of my family in relation to our order, focusing mainly on Nettie and Maggie. My parents both attended Centre College, post-graduation my father continued his education at University of Louisville Medical School. My sister Nettie, the eldest, decided to attend DePauw University in Indiana and is now working at a publishing company in New York City. My sister Maggie followed the path of my father, she attended Centre College and is planning to continue on to medical school (most likely at UofL). I decided to follow both my parent’s paths as well as my older sisters path of attending Centre College. My little sister, Ellie, decided to attend University of Louisville Speed School to focus on engineering.
As you can see, there are definitely major trends in where my family decided to attend school – Go Colonels and Cards! However, I think the most interesting thing we gain from my personal case, is the fact that the one person who decided to not attend a basic family school is the first-born, Nettie. In research about birth-order that I have seen, it is usually the first-borns who follow one of the parent’s paths closely, to, essentially, do the comfortable thing, make the parents proud, and get attention from them. Could the reason that my eldest sister felt so comfortable asserting her own path and not following the usual first-born tendencies be that my parents were liberal enough to be open and express to her that they were open to her doing her own thing? Maybe Nettie did not take the road already traveled because she knew that my parents would support her. They would give her attention no matter what she did and they would be proud of her for that.
When it was Maggie’s turn to decided where to go to school, she decided to take that well-traveled path because, well, no one had yet. It was a spot that was open and that she could fill to get attention from my parents.
I could continue to explore my whole family’s choices, but I don’t want to go on and on, and I think that Nettie and Maggie get the point across. They exemplify children who made choices to gain attention from the parents. In the case of my liberal family, the eldest child felt comfortable and supported enough to not take the most common path. Maybe my parents, both youngest children, even pushed her to do her own thing (a common youngest child choice) and to not be a classic first born.
Sally Ann Finn