This report that NPR did on Morning Edition this morning was great. It tackles why we tend to end up so different from our siblings despite having the same family. It is truly fascinating.
Turns out that on tests that measure personality — stuff like how extroverted you are, how conscientious — siblings are practically like strangers. […] In fact, in terms of personality, we are similar to our siblings only about 20 percent of the time.
Is anyone with a sibling surprised by this stat?
There are three theories about why this is true.
In the context of a family, one of the main things that’s happening is that children are competing for the time, love and attention of their parents. […] So if one child in a family seems to excel at academics, to avoid direct competition, the other child — consciously or unconsciously — will specialize in a different area, like socializing.
#2: Environment (This is SO interesting)
Though from the outside it appears that we are growing up in the same family as our siblings, in very important ways we really aren’t. We are not experiencing the same thing.
“Children grow up in different families because most siblings differ in age, and so the timing with which you go through your family’s [major events] is different,” says Susan McHale, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University. “You know, a parent loses a job, parents get divorced. If you are three or five years behind your sibling, the experience of a 5-year-old whose parents get divorced is very different from the experience of a 9-year-old or a 10-year-old.”
The final theory is the comparison theory, which holds that families are essentially comparison machines that greatly exaggerate even minor differences between siblings.
I just think this is so amazing and important, to move the spotlight away solely from the parents and to point it also at one’s siblings (or, really, other people who you are in close contact with in your home life). We love to point to people’s parents immediately when we discuss who they are and why. The picture is never so narrow, is it?