Why the fascination with birth order?

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 5 2013 4:20 p.m. MST

"It's like astrology," Falbo said. "You know your birth date, so you can figure out which fortune to read that day."

Bernd would say that while the appeal is clear, the findings are valid. "It's an appealing idea that birth order might influence your personality," Bernd said. "But everyone has a birth rank and everyone is influenced by that."

Countering stereotypes

Back in Burbank, Repchuk, mother of those three children, said she believes birth order is a science formed of generations of patterns, rather than something inherent by birth.

Repchuk's children do not fit the stereotypical birth order roles, due to her cognizance of the dangers of enforcing such roles. She and her husband made a conscious effort when their children were young to treat them as if they'd come here for their own purpose and had their own personality, Repchuk said. "I think if there ever is a stereotypical onset, it is due to the parenting styles that have lasted for generations."

Repchuk and her husband have worked hard to avoid comparing their children to one another, asserting their own agenda upon their kids, or pushing them into specific hobbies.

"It's a logical thing. We are self-determined people. We want to be responsible for our own selves, we want to have control and power of choice," Repchuk said. "If you don't exercise both of those, you won't be able to reach a goal or move forward in life."

In a recent article published in Psychology Today, Newman wondered if parents are harassing their children by putting too much pressure on them with unsavory birth order labels that just won't go away.

It's easy to put people, including children, in boxes and pigeon-hole them, Newman told the Deseret News. "Those labels stick."

If parents see their children as individuals and work to treat them democratically, rather than viewing them as the oldest, youngest or middle child, the detriments associated with labeling children can cease to exist, Newman said.

Randi Abramowitz, a parenting teacher at an infant program in Santa Monica, Calif., and mother of three, doesn't discuss birth order in her classes. "I think that it predisposes parents to look at things in a certain way and form prejudices early on, due to the order they came in," Abramowitz said.

There are many factors — temperament, gender, age difference, parenting style — that influence who a child becomes and the place they take in the world, Abramowitz tells the parents in her class.

Parents must accept that you're not going to have five children who are all the same. Each is different, Abramowitz said. Taking a step back and looking at who your child is and appreciating that each child is an individual is pivotal to the child's growth and independence.

"After having merely acted as a facilitator in my children's process of self-discovery, I stand in awe at the effects," Repchuk said. "I'm in heaven with these accomplished individuals as they reach their teen years."

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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