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Big sis, little sis

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Michelle Michelle | 15:08 UK time, Wednesday, 11 January 2012

While cooking dinner last night for my sister, I decided to write this week's blog about siblings.

As the eldest of two sisters, I consider myself to be in a lucky position: A study which came out last year suggested that two daughters is the best combination of offspring for a happy, harmonious family life.

According to the study, two sisters are more likely to play together nicely, help around the home and are less likely to argue.

I must say I'm feeling very smug about this research! But I'm not surprised - I love having a little sister. (Siobhan is actually 23 but will always be 'little' to me!) We meet up at least once a week, gossip together, share clothes and I can't remember the last time we fell out.

Here's a picture of me and Siobhan when we were little and our parents liked to dress us in matching outfits:

So hooray for sister power! But we shouldn't feel too sorry for boys, because the same study suggested that four sisters is the most 'difficult' combination of siblings.

Another interesting question is whether people's personality traits relate to their birth order.

There are the old stereotypes that dictate that the middle child is the 'problem child', the eldest is a bossy boots and the youngest is a tearaway.

In my family, I'm known as a bit of worrier, which could be attributed to my being the eldest sibling. Little sis Siobhan is very fun loving and was a bit more rebellious growing up, which is what you might expect of a younger sister!

Of course she also had to put up with me bossing her around, as well as that great pitfall of being the youngest child - all the hand-me-downs from elder siblings!

A harmonious combination? Me and my sister Siobhan in more recent times.

Do you have any siblings? What was it like growing up with them? Are you a 'bossy boots' eldest son or daughter or a 'tearaway' youngest child? Or do you think these stereotypes are just not true?

I'd love to hear back from you

Michelle (eldest of two)

Siblings - collective term for brothers and sisters.
Offspring - a more formal word for 'children'.
Harmonious - adjective describing things that work well together. A good, pleasing combination.
Stereotypes - a conventional, often oversimplified opinion about things.
Bossy boots - a colloquial, rather childish term referring to someone who is always telling others what to do.
Tearaway - someone who is rebellious or badly behaved. Normally used in reference to teenagers and young people.
Rebellious - resisting control or 'refusing to play by the rules'.
Pitfall - trap, a hidden hazard.
Hand-me-downs - Second hand clothes handed down after having been used (normally by an elder sibling).


  • Comment number 1.

    Hello Michell, I've enjoyed reading your blog and I haven't heard the stereotype you mentioned about the middle child. I am a middle child and I've been the "forgotten" child and what I want to say is that my parents have only had problems whit the "endings" the oldest and the youngest, the rest of the children don't make any "noise"

  • Comment number 2.

    Dear Michell,
    your post is very interesting. I m the middle sibling in my family...the "problem child". I didn' t really understand what is meant by saying "problem child", are these relational,emotional problems or behavioral in the sense of rebellion? Actually I think in a certain way these old stereotypes could have something true; but in my case, what is sure is that I ve been the rebellious of the family, even more my youngest brother. So I could say that I ve got ( or, hopefully, had got) the problems of the second child, and the attitude of the youngest!!! At this point, I can only hope to develop some of the good attitudes of the eldest! Some wisdom would be welcome :)
    Waiting for your next post,

  • Comment number 3.

    Hello michell
    thanks for ur interesting topic
    but u forgot to say that stereotype how describe the lonely child!
    i was alone till 17.after that my young brother came.he was 1 year old when i went to university !can u describe according that stereotype what was i supposed to feel!!
    best wishes

  • Comment number 4.

    Hello Millelle.
    I come from a large family of five siblings: two girls and three boys. The oldest is a girl and the youngest, I, too.
    My oldest sister is a bossy boots, of course, but what a lovely bossy boots! She looks after me like a mother. Sometimes, I get angry because my mother always asks her for advice, and I'm an adult too a long time ago but I've already accepted my role in my famiy and it's very comfortable.
    I'm the youngest but i'm not the most rebelious at all. With so many siblings older than me I've always had somebody to stand up for me. Indeed, mi mother was tired to flight.
    I really get along with my sister but I laugh a lot with my brothers. They aren´t as grave as my sister and neither am I. I think each relation is different, neither better or worse. It doesn't matter whatever is the sex or your sibling, though it marke the relation. You know you have in your sibling help, love, laugh... You have somebody who is a truly support, who is happy when you are happy and help you when you need it, who forgive...
    I wanted to have two daughters, but I had a daughter and a son. And I'm very happy with my family. As they have each role in the family they don't compete very much. They love each other and share a lot of things.
    See you soon.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Michelle, thanks for your wonderful piece of writing about siblings. I've got two sisters I really get along with. We love to have fun together and sometimes we tell jokes while sipping a smoking cup of Italian coffee at my mother's place. On an afternoon last week we split our sides with laughter for more than an hour. It was such a fun!
    While scrolling your entry down I noticed, in your second picture's caption, something sounding odd to me . Is it correct to say "Me and my sister Siobhan"? I have been taught that in English it is better to place the second subject before one-selves, opting for the subject form of the personal pronoun. So "My sister Siobhan and I". Or am I wrong?

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for your update. I'm Saki from Japan and it is my first time writing comment on this blog.
    I have an older sister whom I talk to and go out with very often. And I think my sister and I definetely fit all the stereotype you mentioned above!
    As many older sisters do, my sister has been a bit bossy from her early days. Even now she likes to give me a lot of advices about my clothes, my friends, my work, etc. But in fact, I do love to listen to her advices.
    In Japan, people say that the youngest sibling tends to count upon his/her older siblings a little bit, and I feel that it is very true in my case. Do you make a lot of advices to your sister, too?

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Michelle,

    Very interesting topic indeed, let me share my experiences with you. My older child is indeed bossy boots but I disagree with the stereotype of youngest child being the tearaway. My youngest child may be a little spoiled but apart from that, he is a sensible child. He is 17 years of age and never been rebellious, so far, he is a gentleman. Hope he stays the same.

    I also disagree with the finding that four siblings are the most difficult combination. I have four children and they all seem to be getting on well together, more explicit research is probably required.

    Looking forward to your next post.


  • Comment number 8.

    Hello Michelle!
    It's great to hear about your relationship with your sister, I have two siblings, an elder brother and a younger brother, I must agree with stereotypes about the eldest and the youngest, It definitely describes my brothers. But I desagree that the middle child is the "problem child"! I think the middle child is coolest and funniest child! tststststs

    waiting for your next post


  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Michelle,
    I am a mother of two daughters and I can tell you that the truth of stereotypes is 'based on true stories'. There is only seventeen months age-difference between them. My eldest one is a typically bossy-boots and the other is a tearaway, who admires, copies but covertly envys her sibling at the same time. Sometimes there are some quarrels between them but they show a complete unity towards the outside world.
    Thank you for some new idioms.
    Have a nice day for all of the readers and learners.
    Greetings from Hungary

  • Comment number 10.

    Hello Michelle,
    Your blog entry is brilliant, but I have just one problem. You say at the start of your blog entry "As the eldest of two sisters" and as the eldest of 5 siblings, I was taught that although I can say I am the oldest of 5, when the subject was just my next-down sister and me, I couldn't say I was the 'oldest'... but I had to say I was the 'older'... in other words, I had to use the comparative, but could not use the superlative unless I was referring to more than two things! That was some years back, and I know language evolves, but even so, "the eldest of two" bothers me a bit. (I am not a student of English, I am a teacher.) Loraine

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for your entertaining post. I guess the study on siblings that you mentioned is right up to a large extent. Being youngest in a large family, though I am not a tearaway as you mentioned, but I had been very much stubborn. However, my eldest brother is bossy-boots. I also observed similar nature among the eldest in many of my cousin's families, reassuring the validity of the study. What factors, do you think, influence such nature? Is it the upbringing, or the attitude that 'I am the eldest' in the family that makes someone bossy boots? What nature does the study predict for the only child of a family?
    Love, Rajeeb

  • Comment number 12.

    Hello Millelle,

    Nice to meet you. I am from Thailand, Bangkok. I love reading your blog so much after I have quickly read a couple of posts. Well, according to the story, I have one sister, and I am elder than hers. She is now 23, and I am 26 years of age. She is so annoying sometimes as a normal girl did. Anyway, we can get along with each other in every story quite well. That is because I and hers have both lived a life in the same house for a long period of time when I was a teenage. I normally miss her and phone her one a week. Now, she become more maturity and can make a decision by herself sometimes without my advice. Also, I ask for her a few questions as well when I face a life crisis. Most times I exploit my conscious thought to naviagte and tackle the causal relationship of problems. So, it is the best way for me to get rid of miscellaneous thinkings from my life. Thanks again for sharing a wonderful blog.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hello, Michelle here!

    Thanks to everyone for your comments.

    @Stefania, I had a quick search online, and apparently some people think middle children can feel stuck between the extremes of the eldest and the youngest, and can feel overlooked by their parents. But the good news is, one article I read said middle children are also more likely to be hard working, creative and independent!
    @Rainyman, according to an article I recently read, the only child is the most difficult to 'pigeonhole'. It also said that typical (or perhaps stereotypical) personality traits include becoming more 'adult' sooner, and being more likely to be confident and strong-willed!
    @John, glad to hear you have so much fun with your sisters!

    As for your language question, I think there are two points to look at:
    Firstly, well done for spotting my mistake! You are absolutely right - it is correct English when talking about yourself and another person to place them before oneself. So my caption should read "My sister Siobhan and me…"

    Secondly, there is the question of when to use the pronouns I or me: We use I when I is the subject of the sentence and followed by a verb.
    For example: Sarah and I went to the park.

    In the blog, the caption I have used refers to the photograph above as the subject. But imagine I had written the full sentence:
    "This photograph is of my sister Siobhan and me in more recent times".
    Here, "this photograph" is the subject and "is" is the verb, so in this case you would follow the subject and verb with; "My sister Siobhan and me" rather than "My sister Siobhan and I".

    @Saki, like you and your sister, I think I give quite a lot of advice to my sister too - sometimes when she has asked for it and occasionally when she hasn't!
    @ Varisha, I totally agree. There are always lots of 'exceptions to the rule' in relation to these types of studies.
    @ Artur, my mum is a middle child too and would definitely agree with you!
    @ Loraine, you raise an interesting point that got us talking in the office. I did a bit of research and I think you're probably right. A person can be the elder of two, but the eldest of more than two. I must admit this is something that is so often mixed up in spoken English that it even slipped into my blog!
    @Rajeeb, you open an interesting debate! The research I read suggested that children are massively affected by the way their parents bring them up. But apparently first-borns are also more likely to want to impress their parents and act like them in some way. So it sounds like it's probably a mixture of different factors…
    @Wisarut, good to hear you and your sister get on so well. My sister and I shared a room while we were growing up so it's a good job we always got on well with each other too!

    All the best for now!

  • Comment number 14.

    Thank you Michelle for going through each and every comment and replying them with patience. I really appreciate it. Have a great day.

    Best Regards,

  • Comment number 15.

    Hello Michelle !

    What an interesting article you write !
    I have a special link with my sister, actually I have a twin sister. We are not "true twin sister" i don't know the way to describe it in english :indeed we are in two different eggs when we were in my mother ! ^^

    So it is special. But, my sister is a bossy-boot on contrary to me who is more shy, and introverted than my sister.
    Until I leave home to study in a city where my sister isn't there , I always have not self-confidence, I used to feel saddly and not very happy. The separation enables me to be a really one person.
    However, when I can't see her, I miss her so much. She is the unique person important in my life! and I love hanging out with my sister, having fun, dancing... :)

    Best Regards,


    De France


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