Morning Joe   |  June 21, 2013

How sibling relationships can have a lasting impact on our lives

Parade Magazine's Maggie Murphy joins Morning Joe to discuss the science behind siblings and how sibling relationships can have a lasting impact on a person's life.

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>>> 47 past the hour. joining us now, editor in chief of "parade," maggie murphy. the latest issue of the magazine is on the science of siblings. in the cover story , francine russo writes, "all of the factors that shape your personality, your genes, your parents, your peers -- siblings are at the top. according to one major theory of human development , if you think about it, the relationships with your sisters and brothers will probably last longer than any others in your lifetime. study after study has shown the ways you interact with each other growing up can affect your relationships, your happiness, even the way you see yourself throughout the rest of your life." oh, no.

>> oh, yes.

>> oh, no. i'm going to have to look at this. i might need a therapist now. i love my brothers. everyone has a category for the oldest, the middle, the youngest and all those in between. is there a birth order issue here as you look at the science of siblings.

>> as i said, when we looked at the article, there is some truth to some of the birth order stories. the oldest tend to have higher iqs. they tend to be higher achievers. the number of presidents who are the eldest. middle children do tend to be conflict resolvers. younger children do tend to be more ambitious. they studied the dimaggio brothers, and the younger brothers famously stole many more bases than joe. there is some things, but those things in and of themselves are not necessarily the only thing about siblings. my favorite fact in this story is that younger children, younger siblings fight up to eight times an hour, and that is exactly the kind of conflict that teaches people behavior and patterns that they carry with them for the rest of their lives.

>> when does the fighting stop? is i have two girls.

>> tell me, i have one.

>> oh, my lord.

>> but i'm the second of five. there was conflict all the time. and i'm a middle child, and i think that part of the reason that i grew up to be sort of a conflict resolver was somebody was always fighting with somebody, and somebody in the middle sort of resolved that. i think that's one of the things, when you look at your siblings and your relationships are, how you bring those -- what role you played in that.

>> here's the thing. i have one sister. we always got along very well. maybe from her perspective not quite so much when we were little since i think she would say i might have tortured her a few times, all in great fun. does age gap , how does that impact relationships? my sister was five years younger than i am. so there wasn't that sort of, i think, intense sibling rivalry .

>> they usually say that people who had either older siblings, male or female opposite, became actually much more comfortable with the opposite sex because that gave them some pattern. so some of those issues -- i think the other thing that happens is -- depends on how the conflicts were resolved by your parents. good parental management often will set the tone. and if the other thing that usually comes up is fairness. there is some aspect of not -- we would call it favoritism. but there is some delineation between how kids are treated by their parents. if it's overall in a fair way, it works out. the issue is mostly, though, over time those relationships get better, especially as parents age and people deal with those conflicts.

>> there's favoritism and perceived favoritism. it's very complicated with girls.

>> it is. the other thing is we try to de-identify from our siblings. if you have a sibling who's a very successful basketball player, you might do something different to show your difference as much as you might admire that person. and that's part of finding your own identity as you work your way through life.

>> the new issue of "parade" magazine, out now. maggie murphy, great to see you again. come back soon. up next, a little news you can't use. keep it right here on " morning joe ." i am