The Sibling Effect: Brothers, Sisters, and the Bonds that Define Us by Jeffrey Kluger

Sibling relationships are special. We have more in common with our siblings than with anyone else in the world — genetically speaking, at least. And for most people, no other relationship spans as many years as one with a sibling. But because of the enormous variation in family sizes and configurations, sibling relationships have always been difficult for social scientists to study.

Author Jeffrey Kluger makes a valiant effort to summarize the research so far. Using vignettes from his own life, reports about the family life of celebrities and evidence from academic studies, he comments on birth order, step-siblings, gender identity, twins, and  growing old with siblings.

Anybody who was raised in a family – in any sort of family – will find plenty of food for thought about how their siblings (or their singleton status) shaped who they grew up to become. Some of his observations you’ve probably heard before – for example, eldest children and only children are more likely to go to law school and youngest children are more likely to go to clown school. Some of the observations that were new to me seemed completely pointless, yet uncannily square with my own experiences – for example, eldest children are less likely to enjoy roller coasters and youngest children are less likely to organize their sock drawers. Little tidbits like that make this book a fun, quick read.

I recommend it with one just caveat: Kluger’s approach involves broad overviews of a field of research still in its infancy. There is scant advice on managing sibling relationships. There are more questions than he answers. The analysis is often ambiguous and tentative. Those who like having something to think about will enjoy the book, but those who want to know what to think will not be satisfied with the book’s untidy conclusions.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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