Momma’s Boys

April 15th, 2014

Why is it the case that first-born children have the propensity to be conservative?  Conservative in dress, in taste, in music, in politics?

According to Avi Tuschman in his book Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us, the first offspring is born with all the attention of the parents directed at him; and it is incumbent upon him to keep that attention by catering to the demands of his parents.  The first-born will be responsible, will obey the rules.

When another offspring comes along, staying loyal to the parental authority figure is the first-born’s method of trying to maintain the beneficence that had been flowing toward him alone, but which now is being split with a younger sibling. So remaining true to the old ways is the first-born’s best tactic for self preservation.

The younger sibling, though, can’t use that same tactic as well, but is forced to develop new tactics for getting attention: crying helps at first, but gets annoying; better to develop skills and interests that haven’t been tried before within the family, and so get attention and affection.  Going outside the family, for new interests, becomes the preferred modus operandi.  This leads to the development of an openness to the novel, to the original, to the world outside the family, and perhaps to leaving for parts of the world far from the place of birth.

The first-born, however, is much more likely to stay by his mother’s side, to develop a distaste for things different, to prefer the same old same old to the dangers of the novel.

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