What’s the family structure and formation? Are there inner communities?

Published / by Joe / Leave a Comment

Many times before, I have talked about the dynamics within my own family both before the adoption and after the adoption. And although many of you will wonder how can a young child remember dynamics (since adoption took place over 10 years ago), I assure you that children’s memories rarely fade away. So feel free to review what I’ve stated before about the years before the adoption and years after it, as today I’ll be talking about the current relationships that are maintained among the family members.

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If you don’t recall, my family has 10 family members (including my self) with 5 boys and 3 girls that were adopted from Liberia. Many psychologists have worked on figuring out the relationships built and maintained among different siblings (depending on age and age difference) but not many (if any) have worked on figuring out what happens when 3 new children are added to a family. How does the structure change? How do the small previously formed smaller communities within the family evolve? These are some of the questions I’ll answer for my case. I’m not going to make general statements about all families that have adopted children.

So in our case (and this probably exists in all families according to psychologists) you’ve got the first brother at the top, who thinks he’s a big cheese because he was born first. The first one to “pop out” always (according to research) believes he/she is somehow superior among his siblings, simply because he was born first. So that person takes a more leading role within the siblings of a family. Although I’m not going to get into details about how that affected our family’s path, and won’t get into personal family matters, what I will say is that be careful when that “leader” is full of himself and isn’t heading in the right direction. It’s understandable for that person (from nature) to be more outspoken and become everything that follows the first born child, but be careful when the influence (because they do have great influence) is negative and takes the rest of his brothers and sisters down the wrong path, setting a seriously wrong example for the younger members.

The person that “pops out” in second place (known as the 2nd sibling) will always try to imitate everything that first sibling does: doesn’t really matter what the “leader” does, the follow up brother/sister will always look up to him/her and try to become that person. It’s something that takes place among most families (so I’m not telling you something new here.) In this case, again you have to be careful since having a second “faulty” behavioral child, will build more bad examples for all the other family members (especially the younger ones.)

The 3rd child to come to this world (hey, that’s me!) will for ever battle his way to the top of the ladder. No matter how much he tries to be accepted, he simply won’t be because jealousy takes place and your two “top leaders” can’t accept a younger member taking their place in importance (especially parental importance and significance.) So there will always be an endless battle among those 3 siblings, the 2 older ones always teaming up against the 3rd. Again: I won’t get into family details as it wouldn’t be respectful towards anyone. But be aware of such situations, and as a parent try to balance things out. If you are a 3rd born child, you know very well what I’m talking about. It doesn’t really matter finally if you get acceptance from the older “bullies” as long as you get acceptance from your parents. As childish as this may sound, you need to understand (if you are a 3rd born child reading this) that it’s a battle you will never win among your brothers/sisters. It’s the way the dynamics are. Psychologists and behavioral scientists have concluded that this is simply the way nature has created these situations. So if you are looking for acceptance or approval, look to your parents. I was lucky enough to have parents that were supportive and understood my situation, so (not always) often they would take my side to, based on reality. Also make sure you get acceptance from yourself. Living in this kind of dynamic, I really learned that you should not focus your entire life (or even a slice of it) to impress other people. People are selfish (as I am too) and will never give you more credit than they give them selves. So everything you do, should be done for your own sake. Don’t try and be excellent or very good at something and in life, just so you hear people applauding you. It will never happen! Rest assured it will never happen. But keep on striving for the best, your full potential and being excellent for your own good and acceptance – it’s important. Obviously you may know this or other people will, but being in place #3, really teaches you what you have been told, first hand. Oh, and just a boost of confidence and motivation here: Going through this constant competitiveness, you’ll be way way more competitive in the real world. Bad language and behavior won’t affect you as much, because you spent a good portion of your young life fighting it. It’s a blessing to be a 3rd born child. Also, the brother/sisters before will have made so many mistakes (simply because they’ve lived longer) so if you are wise enough, you will avoid all those pot holes along the way.

Being a fourth born child (and probably my actual brother would have to more to say about this) is even more difficult to deal with siblings. See, the two older ones have formed their team, and now you come along seeing the third sibling getting his rear whooped all the time. It’s easier for you to team up with them, and keep on fighting the 3rd child (simple mathematics) but on the other hand, you are so much younger than them, so they won’t add you in their social circle. So you end up compromising with “3rd choice” because of age, and a young spirit of rebellion. You know that if you get on Joe’s side, at least you’ll have someone who wants to hold on to you. But everything is shattered, once that fifth child comes along. He (in this case) at some point gets to an old enough age to hang out with the fourth sibling, and that is when you get the second team of siblings.

So the fifth child, being the youngest child is always more privileged. If you think some people in society are privileged, look at the youngest of all children. It’s not just benefits and privileges given by parents. It’s extra attention that everyone gives him. It’s just the way this works. Everyone wants to make sure the youngest child has everything they didn’t have. The danger here is that he/she gets spoiled at a dangerously difficult point to snap out of, or as a result of being spoiled, lacks far behind on personal work and achievement. Luckily for my young brother’s sake, he remained independent always relying on his efforts and achievements, rather the handouts provided.

And finally we have the 3 adopted Liberian girls (I bet you don’t know what to expect now.) These girls formed a social group of their own. Being different (in culture, language skills and even color of skin), naturally they developed their own social circle of acceptance, in which they felt secure. It’s a normal thing to happen, considering the situation they need to adapt to. So basically it was a very powerful social formation that really held a significant part within the structure of the family. Not only was it another social group (and thus party to compete against), it was a different social group and larger one (as the other two consisted of only 2 members.) In my family’s case, this social group –  not being accepted as a whole by the others, would stay close to the 3rd born child (little old Joe.) So it was kind of an interesting “survival” agreement between me and them and I can say it worked quite well. We were the largest social group and that’s when I understood the value of partnerships and allies. You can achieve way more when you have other people as well, rather when you are on your own.

Send me a message if you would like a follow up (part 2) post during the upcoming days or if you would like to discuss family dynamics. In any case, I’m all ears!

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