The Birth Order Book

birthorder book

The Birth Order Book, Kindle edition, by Dr. Kevin Leman. Original print version published in 1984 with 300 pages.

This book has been on my “to read” list for several years, but I never quite got around to reading it until very recently. One of the reasons I hadn’t been in a rush to read it is because every synopsis I’d ever read had me thoroughly convinced that it was an oversimplification based on squirrely evidence which didn’t take into account all the variables. When I began reading it, I was almost convinced that my initial take was correct.

At the very beginning, for instance, was a quiz indicating various fictional people and their tendencies, and the reader is offered the chance to guess their birth order. The answers were at the end of the book. Right away, doubts about the reliability of Dr. Leman’s exposition arosse.

At 46, and as the youngest of a group who range in age from 62 downward, I’ve always been the opposite of typical youngest child perceptions. Our firstborn didn’t fit into the quiz although she and our last born possess more of the typical birth order characteristics than either my husband or I do. My husband’s birth order -solidly middle with no large age gaps between the five siblings- is the least well matched. He has very strong characteristics typically associated with first borns.

As I continued reading however, Dr. Leman’s valiant effort towards accounting for variables witin the typical paradigms slowly began to soften my initial skepticism about his book. In fact, just as I was about to give up on the book, the first example in the second chapter on birth order variables sucked me in. I was -figuratively, of course- the guy who walked up to Dr. Leman and said, roughly paraphrased:

“I’m the baby of my family. I’m the most responsible. I’m the only one who reads [in Elspeth’s specific case that means anything besides the Bible]. How do you explain that?”

Well, since I wanted to know the good doctor’s explanation, I kept reading, and I am very glad that I did. Dr. Leman offered enough explanation for atypical situations such as my own family’s. The death of a parent of a young family and a subsequent blending of family certainly does, to quote Dr. Leman, cause “certain birth orders to get stepped on.”

Once I let go of my initial incredulity and gave Dr. Leman an open minded hearing, I found that many of his conclusions were solid and had merit. As much as is possible to categorize such things, since there are always variables not easily accounted for, he does an admirable job.

This book presents thoughtful, engaging propositions and examples of how various family dynamics can manifest as it relates to birth order. It’s a good book, and an enjoyable read.

Grade: B



4 thoughts on “The Birth Order Book

  1. Robyn says:

    As with all personality diagnosis like this, or the Love Languages book, we (and by we I mean ‘me’) have to resist pigeonholing people.


  2. Elspeth says:

    I agree with you completely, Robyn. It’s easy to get caught up in templates and boxes and all kinds of things. This is because generalities are a real thing, often based in facts, and without which communication would be nigh impossible.

    The mistake I was tempted to make here is to dismiss generalities in total, but that is because my entire life has been one big contradiction of the typical meme as it concerns last born, black women, black marriages, you name it. Ditto my guy, with one exception.

    But our unorthodox way of being doesn’t change the facts on the ground in general. Luckily, I was able to push my bias aside and give Dr. Leman a fair hearing.

    The book was entertaining as well, which helped.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Robyn says:

    He’s a great speaker too, very entertaining. Our (D and me) lives too are a contradiction …. I wonder if, when Christ gets involved in the equation, the generalities get all skewed back towards ‘right’ or ‘spiritually pure’. For example, they say most first borns are driven and high achievers with extreme attention to details — say they become something risky like anesthesiologists; but you know what? You don’t want this *points to self* full-on sanguine and highly emotional female (but learning to control it) in charge of THAT gauge during surgery LOL.

    (I struggle to be present — I would be more apt to be practicing a piano piece (or dance steps) in my mind or enjoying the many shades of green in the operating room; wondering how I could crochet them into a new design)

    … all that to say — I do not possess any of the natural first born traits. Neither do our kids either; yet, I still don’t disagree with Dr Leman’s findings.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elspeth says:

    You sound like lots of fun, creative energy. And you are first born? Interesting!

    I’d bet Dr. Leman is great to hear in person.

    Teaching out to you tomorrow when I have some time. Stay tuned.

    Liked by 1 person

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