Books: Michael Grose reveals how ‘Prince Harry effect’ impacts Aussie families

The average number of children in a family was three when parenting educator Michael Grose first wrote his book examining birth order theory, Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It, in 2003.

Now that number has dropped to two, and Australia is seeing the demise of the resilient middle child, the Mornington Peninsula-based author of 12 parenting books has revised the bestseller.

The former primary school teacher has dedicated the past 30 years to Adlerian mainstream psychology, which uses birth order in a group-based psychological stream rather than looking at someone individually.

In other words, the position a child is born in their family can impact them greatly — including personality, behaviour, learning — because as social beings we try to find our niche in a social group, and our first social group is our family.

children, playing, meadow
Camera IconThe position a child is born in their family can impact them greatly. Credit: Bessi/Pixabay (user Bessi)

“Every position you are born into requires something different of you,” Grose said.

“Now that we’re seeing the demise of the middle child, we’re seeing a lot more second children with youngest born characteristics, particularly when children are the same gender.

“I call that position ‘The Prince Harry Effect’ because William and Harry are the absolute poster kids for it.

“First-borns like to stick to the rules and are the family conservatives and then you have the second born who is trying to find his niche.

“With youngest ones, rules are always for others. It’s not that they’re rebellious, but they’re not going to follow the family way necessarily, and often have difficulty finding their special spot.”

Princes William and Harry
Camera IconPrinces William and Harry. Credit: BANG – Entertainment News

Grose said he also updated the book with a chapter for teachers, since birth order can provide a lens on which to look at their students.

“We have lots of lenses and we like to put people in boxes; it’s similar for gender, culture and race,” he said

“We use that information to help us communicate and I think the one piece of information that is useful, particularly for parents and teachers, is birth order knowledge.”

Grose said he referred to families as being a constellation, where birth order did not necessarily imply a neat set of numbers — where if you are born first you are going to be like this and if you are born second you are going to be like that.

There are variables such as spacing between children, genders, parental and cultural expectations.

“Just like a constellation of stars has its own pattern, every family has its own pattern,” he said.

“Once you understand those variables, family constellations make sense.”

Penguin Books Australia, $34.99.

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