The influence of rank in the family

Films, novels and television series extensively explore the theme of sibling relationships and rivalries. If siblings fascinate more than one, this interest sometimes reinforces some clichés as well, such as that of the responsible firstborn … or the youngest immature. And what about the younger elbow between the two! Beyond the clichés and ideas received, what is the real impact of our rank within the family?

Our stereotypical conception of the different roles of siblings derives in part from a not so distant past: that of a Quebec with large families, where the eldest son worked alongside his father on the farm, while the eldest, sometimes very young, became the “second mother ”of his brothers and sisters.

The family and its new realities

In the space of a few decades, however, this has all changed. Not only are families smaller now, but new patterns have emerged, including that of the mixed family. In the latter example, the child who was previously the eldest can thus become the youngest or the youngest of his or her new household. The dynamics within mixed families are also necessarily different: do children often, rarely or not at all share the same roof? And what about only children? All of these new realities are definitely game-changing!

Beyond the family rank, several factors come into play

That said, it is true that our rank in the family can often be accompanied by a role (the manager, the jester, the artist, the sportsman, the black sheep, etc.). This role is sometimes also strengthened by parents and other members of a family, even unconsciously and, over time, it becomes difficult to get out of it … even in adulthood! But we must be wary of labels: the human being what he is, no individual can be summed up by a single title, a reputation, a dimension!

Other factors, in fact, matter a lot, such as the family environment. Do we evolve within a large or small family? Do we have to take on a lot of responsibilities quickly or do we prefer to enjoy a lot of freedom? Do we experience physical, psychological or intellectual limitations? In the latter case, a child who has a sister or brother living with a disability will often tend to take responsibility much more quickly from an early age. The dynamics of our family also contribute to the trajectory of each. Many evolve in healthy and safe environments, others more unstable or disadvantaged, or sometimes abusive or violent.

Within the same family, the role of each person can also change overnight. For example, if either parent falls ill or dies suddenly, the eldest child of the family may have to immediately take over and fill the role of “parent”. The arrival of the youngest in turn will lead to a new dynamic: a new baby will require more care and attention at a young age and will require a certain priority, and the oldest will have to decide to share his place. Let’s not forget that the firstborn is the only child to have received the exclusive attention of his parents, and that the twins have never known this exclusivity!

You also need to take into account the age difference between children. The greater the gap between them, the more competent the greater will appear: he can read, run faster, climb trees, in short, he will inevitably become a model. There are also those who argue that the place of the elderly stimulates in them the spirit of enterprise and a sense of responsibility, which would explain their presence at the head of various organizations, while the younger ones show a more rebellious temperament, trying to accelerate the social changes.

As for the “youngest child”, the youngest, will often be perceived as “the child” even in adulthood! This image is sometimes explained by the behavior of the parents, knowing that he or she will be the last or the last in the line. They then want to take full advantage of this latter experience of paternity or maternity.

Pay attention to general information

If these examples are not fanciful, they do not constitute generalizable realities, nor are they still immutable. The plurality of models, the multiplicity of events that transform everyone’s life and family dynamics show that our rank as a brother is far from being the only element to determine our personality, our existence. Especially since our personal trajectory will also be determined by many other factors, including our personality traits, our strengths and our weaknesses …

Yes, we can remain the eldest, the youngest or the youngest in the family until the end of our days, but let us also have the freedom to free ourselves from the labels that have been attributed to us, voluntarily or not, from birth.

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