Review – The Sibling Effect: What the bonds among brothers and sisters reveal about us

I’ve always been fascinated by birth order and how our siblings influence us. I was drawn to this book not only from the perspective of my original family (consisting of myself, one brother and one sister), but also for my son who for all intents and purposes is an only child (he has adult half-siblings).

The author is the second of four brothers, plus twin half-siblings (another brother and a sister) who we are introduced to late in the book (as they weren’t introduced to each other in real life until adulthood). He also had two step-sisters from his mother’s 15-month long second marriage, who are not part of his life after the marriage ended. The sharing of his childhood experiences mixed with research on the topic of siblings was excellent. Breaking down the chapters of the book to different life stages allowed us to follow their development and interactions from childhood, teenage years, and adulthood.

For me, as the first-born, it’s nice to know I’m ‘normal’ and fit squarely into this role. My siblings – with my brother as the middle child and sister as the baby – also carry out their stereotypical roles very well!

The gender balance between different sibling interactions is very interesting, particularly from the author’s upbringing with all-male siblings. Some of the research about what happens in-utero to twins, as well as gay and lesbians, was new information to me and I found logical and well presented.

The chapter on singletons was obviously a focus for me. As my son is a day-care kid, as well as having frequent contact with his cousins, he hopefully will avoid some of the behavioural problems sometimes experienced by only children.

With the author not finding out until he was in his 20s that he has half-siblings was very interesting. He had an immediate bond with his half-siblings: one that wasn’t there with his step-sisters. The research suggests, on a biological level (most likely smell), we know who our blood relatives are. We humans are such interesting creatures!

Our longest-lasting relationships are with our siblings. They are with us from the start, they are part of our earliest memories, and will be with us longer than parents, spouses, and most friends. When I finished this book, I immediately wanted to talk to both my siblings and share all this new information about us. So to my two siblings, here’s to a great journey!

Rating: 4 stars  (check my book review scale)

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