Insight: Apr 26

Hands up all the Jan Brady, middle children please?Are you really doomed to be stuck in the shadow of your big sister, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia?

Next up Insight looks at birth order and whether it shapes your personality.

With input from psychologists and researchers, both here and abroad, Insight explores the stereotypes – from the responsible first-born, to middle child syndrome, to the rebellious youngest, to the spoilt only child. It also considers blended families and how birth order applies when there are more complicated
family dynamics.

Several Australian families join host Jenny Brockie to speak honestly about their experiences and whether the birth order theories hold true for them.

Other factors which may shape character traits, such as gender and culture, are also discussed.

Guests include:

Frank Sulloway, who has researched the influence of birth order on personality Sulloway and behaviour. He’s a visiting scholar at the University of California, has a History of Science PhD, and is the author of Born to Rebel.

Toni Falbo a Professor of Educational Psychology and Sociology at the University of Texas. She is critical of birth order theories, and says it plays a very small role in shaping personality. She has researched the impacts of China’s one child policy.

An Insight story: Every week Insight tackles a single issue of national importance from many points of
view. Politicians, stakeholders, experts and ordinary Australians sit side by side and have their say.

Julie Fitness a Professor of Psychology at Macquarie University who has researched “black sheep” and “favourites” in families.

The Elyaseh Family
Max and his wife Mirvat immigrated from Lebanon more than twenty years ago and had all their five children here in Australia. Max says his eldest son Mohammed is “the man of the house” despite the fact that Mohammed is 10 years old and the fourth of five children.

The Swarbrick Family
There are five kids in the Swarbrick family with a 20 year gap between the oldest and youngest. Middle children Michael and Jennifer believe being a middle child makes you a more resilient person because you grow up dealing with the fact that you aren’t in the spotlight.

The Orr Family
The Orrs have a lot of branches on their family tree with six kids from William Senior’s two different marriages. Melissa, who is also adopted, went from being the youngest in her father’s first family to being the eldest in his second family. Birth order experts say that blended families cause a real problem for them
because they are thrown out of any research sample.

Insight is hosted by Jenny Brockie and airs on SBS ONE Tuesdays at 7.30pm.

David Knox blogs Eurovision at


  1. Birth order thing rings true for my family of three siblings.
    My eldest sister is the responsible one, my second sister has a lot of issues and thinks the world owes her. Finally I’m the youngest one and I was very very naughty as a child.

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