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Biology 202, Spring 2005
Second Web Papers
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My Brother's Corruption

Bridget Dolphin

I don't have a great memory at all. I couldn't even share my "first memory" because my mental timeline is so screwed up I don't know the order in which my recollections occurred. Despite this inaccuracy, I do know that there was never a time during which I was not trying to rebel. I lied regularly to my parents and my friends. I told ridiculous stories to teachers and my friends' parents. I did a lot of things I wasn't supposed to and often made decisions that weren't mine to make. I would kick boys at school, for no reason other than I thought it comical. I don't remember this in the least, but my cousins often show me their scars from my "biting stage" that apparently lasted between the time I got my first tooth and my fifth birthday.

Despite the terror I caused, my parents had another child when I was four and a half. Even then I thought they were brave. Although I tried to coach him to be as rotten as I was, my brother might have been the perfect child. This is not completely unexpected; often second-born children behave and display characteristics that are the exact opposite of the eldest child (4). Sometimes he did misbehave, but he handled it so differently than I did. Of course, I don't recall a lot of specific instances, but I remember watching open-mouthed when he admitted doing something bad the first time he was asked. One time I snuck a box of razor blades out of my dad's toolbox and I was horrified when my mom didn't believe that a saw had come out of the wall and sliced my finger. My brother just gave in. It blew my mind. We would start verbal fights for various stupid reasons, and I was always the first one to make it physical. This lasted for a long time.

One day my parents caught my brother in a lie. I have no idea what it was about, probably something to do with school. He became less consistent in telling my parents where he was going and he started to talk back. I wish I could recall more specifically when I noticed these differences, but I think it happened when he was in fourth or fifth grade. I take full responsibility. I remember a few specific instances of corruption I wish I could just erase from both our memories. I caught him sneaking a piece of candy at church once. I blackmailed him for a while for his allowance and lectured him on how lucky he was that I didn't rat him out. Then I told my mom and he wasn't allowed sweets for a week. I went through a period in middle school during which I decided I wanted my brother's most prominent emotion toward me to be fear, so I yelled at him every chance I got and hit him a lot. I guess it is good I realized that was just dumb after about a day, but it must have been quite shocking to be on the receiving end. The only time I remember him hitting me first I made fun of him for probably about ten minutes. I'm recalling more now... he didn't just hit me, he hit me with a golf club. I deserved it.

This seems like a lot of semi-pointless narration, but I think it's important to preface the main idea of this paper well. My question is this: If I corrupted my little brother, who is responsible for corrupting me? I think I know the reason is internal; I was bad from the beginning. I can't help but wonder, though, if my brother would still be an angel if he had had a different sibling, or if he had been born first. Maybe we both have the "bad kid" gene, his just emerged later in life. Or maybe I ruined him.

There is a lot of research available about birth order. For each article that asserts characteristics of birth order, there are five which contradict it. It is not an exact science, unfortunately, but there are some consistencies. For example, many published articles affirm that first-borns crave the parental attention they once received without competition and they are likely to be more out-going than later-born children. They also tend to do better on standardized tests and be more creative (5). The younger children of any size family are likely to be dreamers and inwardly expressive. Charles Darwin was the fourth of six children and was often scolded by his father and older siblings for being too involved with studying plants and animals. He grew into one of the most rebellious scientific minds in history. Some researchers dare to claim that had he been born earlier in the order, he would not have been so inspired to question theory as he did (6).

From my research, I can conclude that there is any combination of two sources which contributed to my corruption. It was in my genes from birth or I was merely acting out as any normal only and then first-born child would. There are a variety of other contributors to a child's behavior, I understand, but I believe these to be the most key.

The "gene craze" began in the 1990's, when suddenly it was vogue to believe that every aspect of an individual's personality could be traced to his genes. Scientists raced to be the first to find that not only were certain diseases and disorders genetic (alcoholism, depression, etc.), but also every facet of behavior, such as friendliness or criminality (6). Since then the concept seems to have retreated out of the news, though research continues in several prominent institutions. The craze is pretty much over, but someday before I die maybe a doctor will tell me that being a pain when I was a child is imprinted somewhere in my brain and could have been predicted from birth, with no hope of avoiding it.

Even if the "bad kid" genes do exist and are part of my make-up, they cannot be accountable entirely for my behavior. Genes are simply a basis for personality, altered by environment (3). A large part of the environment aspect has to do with birth order, because it constitutes who grows up around a person, and how he or she is affected by them. Before my brother came, I was an only child, so I was probably craving a lot of attention. Sources also state that only children are very strong-willed and enjoy being in control. Slightly understated in my case, I believe, but it is possibly a component of my bad behavior. When I became the eldest of two children, it was hard for me to let go of these tendencies (1), (2), (4), (5), (7). One article asserts that "only children are first-borns in triplicate" (2). So after my brother was born, I became one-third of the terror I was before, but acquired a variety of other delightful attributes including intense competitiveness and unstoppable determination, which was sometimes directed toward accomplishing something constructive (1).

Maybe I wasn't the worst kid who ever lived. I am intentionally not asking my parents for input on the subject. It is comforting to me to know now that according to both genetic and birth order research, it was probably more for internal and environmental reasons that I acted the way I did and less a conscious choice (3). I also learned that I might not be entirely responsible for ruining my little brother. If his behavior pattern is not drawn out in his brain, perhaps it could have been predicted by the intellectuals who study birth order and youngest children. Thomas Hayden would agree, I think. He says "younger siblings often grow into defiant adults" (6). Substitute "pre-teens" for "adults" and the case is solved. Often the youngest child is used to parents and older siblings carrying most of the responsibility; perhaps it took the kid longer to catch on that he could get away with being unaccountable than it takes most last-borns (6). It has also been affirmed that parents tend to be increasingly lenient toward each child born after the first. He might have realized that, too. A final theory is that having been born years later, my brother was in a position figuratively far behind mine. It is natural for him to feel like he needs to catch up, as younger siblings often do (1). Since I wasn't writing novels or running marathons, maybe he presumed the best way to "catch up" was to be as nefarious as I was.

Now not only have I proved that my behavior can be explained by genes and birth order, but so can my brothers. It probably wasn't as much my fault that he went through a difficult phase as I originally imagined. What a relief. Despite the fact that these theories can't really be proved or disproved exactly, at least probably not in my lifetime, I think there has been enough examining done to be confident with the given assertions.

WWW Sources

1)Birth order

2)Personality traits linked to birth order

3)My genes made me do it

4)How birth order affects your child's personality

5)Birth category effects on the Gordon personal profile variables

6)A sense of self

7)Birth order patterns

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