I subscribe to NPR to get the public radio email blasts about current news stories of significance. This one caught my eye today: "Breakthrough In Sibling Research" by Alex Spiegel.Something in the story caught my eye and is of major importance to parents who are divorced and divorcing. This is the impact on children that divore has. All of a sudden, these children, all born into the same environment, will not experience that same environment after the divorce, particularly if there are major age differences between them.
For most of history, psychologists thought of the study of siblings as backwater: Parenting was important — siblings were not.
Then in the 1980s, a researcher named Robert Plomin published a surprising paper in which he reviewed the three main ways psychologists had studied siblings: physical characteristics, intelligence and personality.
According to Plomin, in two of these areas, siblings were really quite similar. Plomin and his collegeaues decided to do research to separating genetic inheritance from the influences of environment.
They did study after study, trying to tease out what role genes played in the personality differences they saw, and what role the environment played in those differences. When they began, they assumed, like everyone else, that being raised in the same environment would be one of the things that made children similar. This, however, is not what they found. They did, however, identify three major theories.
Theory One: Divergence
Theory Two: Environment.
Theory Three: Exaggeration. This final theory is the comparison theory, holding that families are essentially comparison machines that greatly exaggerate even minor differences between siblings.
Something caught my eye in the NPR story, though, describing two brothers who in adulthood are vastly different in personalities. What struck me is that the father of the two boys died when Tom was 17 and heading off to college. Thus, 12-year-old Eric, at home with his mother, experienced quite a different childhood (all of a sudden) from that of Tom's.
I'm wondering what we can learn from this research that would help divorcing parents level the playing field for their children. Somehow, I feel it has some
Siblings Share Genes, But Rarely Personalities by Alex Spiegel
Listen to the NPR story here