Synopses & Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A landmark work that illuminates the crucial influence of birth order on personality and the far-reaching consequences of sibling competition not only within individual families but on society as a whole.
At the heart of this pioneering inquiry is a fundamental insight into human behavior: that the personalities of first-born children differ from those of their younger siblings not because of cultural differences but because common human instincts play themselves out differently in the universal quest for parental favor. Frank Sulloway's most important finding that eldest children support the status quo and youngest children rebel against it provides the foundation for startling analyses of the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, and Darwin's theory of evolution.
Concerning first borns did you know that:
- First borns are more frequently defenders of the status quo, more accepting of parental or conventional values.
- In their support of authority they will use either brains or violence to resolve conflict.
- More first borns Albert Einstein, Ivan Pavlov, Linus Pauling are Nobel Laureates.
- First borns like Stalin, Robespierre, and Carlos the Jackal will not shy away from tactics of terrorism.
Concerning later-borns did you know that:
- Most later-borns more frequently turn over convention and champion reform, revolution and upheaval.
- Later-borns have been the catalysts of change supporting free speech, free worship, civil rights and women's rights.
- They are the creators of revolutionary ideas Voltaire, Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were all later-borns.
- Those who pressed for the absolution of slavery Frederick Douglass, John Brown and Harriet Tubman were all later-borns.
Frank J. Sulloway envisions families as ecosystems in which siblings compete for parental favor by occupying specialized niches. Combing through thousands of biographies in politics, science, and religion, he demonstrates that firstborn children are more likely to identify with authority whereas their younger siblings are predisposed to rise against it. Family dynamics, Sulloway concludes, is a primary engine of historical change. Elegantly written, masterfully researched, Born to Rebel
is a grand achievement that has galvanized historians and social scientists and will fascinate anyone who has ever pondered the enigma of human character.
Born to Rebel is a path-breaking study, a solid confirmation of the belief that a scientific, empirical basis exists for our understanding of human behavior.
"Daring...a stunning achievement." The New York Times Book Review
"An important and valuable study that will define research agendas for years to come. It is also hugely fun to read." Boston Globe
Why do people raised in the same families often differ more dramatically in personality than those from different families? What made Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, and Voltaire uniquely suited to challenge the conventional wisdom of their times? This pioneering inquiry into the significance of birth order answers both these questions with a conceptual boldness that has made critics compare it with the work of Freud and of Darwin himself.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 541-616) and index.
About the Author
Frank J. Sulloway has a Ph.D. from Harvard. He is a M.I.T. Research Scholar and also a recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" grant. He is the author of Freud: Biologist of the Mind. He lives in Massachusetts.