Book About Brothers & Sisters: Age Spacing


Age Spacing

You’ve heard some parents say that they want children close in age. That way, they can spend more time together, share more experiences. Other parents feel that having children too close in age leads to unnecessary competition and not enough time to grow up before another child enters the picture.

There is evidence to support both theories. If you’d like to read a complete article on the subject, go to this article on

In a 1989 article in The New York Times, author Lawrence Kutner writes about siblings that are six or more years apart. He makes a strong case for the advantages of spacing siblings further apart.

Kutner writes about families with “caboose babies” — youngest children who are born when their older sibs are in elementary or junior high.

“With the typical 2-3-year span,” said Dr. Carol J. Eagle, then a clinical psychologist and associate professor of child psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “there’s a lot more competition between the siblings. When there’s a 6-year difference, it’s pretty hard to compete.”

The younger siblings tend to see their older siblings as parents. Dr. Lucille K. Forer, then a clinical psychologist, said, “I’ve seen it work beautifully. The older child can reach out to the younger child and can be tremendously helpful. The older child sees himself as wiser and more mature.”

The younger child benefits as well, said Dr. Forer. “The younger child has the characteristics of an only child. Only children tend to have good self-esteem.”


Your Thoughts about Age Spacing


As you read these questions, you can answer them and fill in the blanks (mentally or on paper) as either a parent of two or more children or as a sibling with at least one brother or sister. If you’re an only child or the parent of an only, your opinions are just as valued.


  • My sibling closest in age and I (my children) are _______ years apart.
  • How would I would describe the relationship between the siblings/children closest in age?
  • In what ways do they complement each other?
  • In what ways do they collide?
  • If I could change the age spacing between me and my closest sibling in age (children closest in age) would I do it? (Think about why or why not.)



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For Parents: Factors That Shape Your Children

In books about brothers and sisters, a lot is made about birth order.  The problem is: most studies have failed to show that the order in which children are born affects who they are.

Birth order is not so different than your children’s astrological sign.  You may find some characteristics that match and some that don’t.

Don’t get me wrong: birth order is a factor in who you children are and their relationships outside of the family.  But it’s only one of many factors.

So, what are other factors that shape your children?

  • Gender – Children learn a lot from a sibling of the opposite sex:  more about the “feminine” and “masculine” roles; how to love and not to love; how to quarrel and make up; self-esteem
  • Age spacing – There is evidence to support the benefits of children close together in age, and evidence to support the benefits of having children further apart.  The following article provides some of the pluses/minuses of close age spacing and some of the pluses/minuses of more years between the birth of one sibling and the next.
  • From generation to generation – Family patterns can be handed down from one generation to the next.  Your children and you are, in part, products of your ancestors and their patterns of behavior.  An example: A woman whose father and three siblings immigrated to the United States and had one another’s “back.”  Their close relationship served as a model for her and her siblings.  So, pay attention to how you and your siblings interact and how your parents and their siblings interact.  Your children are watching.
  • Gender preference – In both Western and Eastern cultures, boys are still valued more than girls.  In these cultures, boys are taught that they are superior to their sisters.  And girls are taught to accept this preference and their inferiority.  You can imagine how this setup can affect relationships between your male and female children.  When girls and boys are both valued and encouraged to explore their potential, they not only excel but so do their connections with their brothers and sisters.
  • Expressing emotions – Expressing emotions tends to run along ethnic lines.  People living in or from Mediterranean cultures tend to express their emotions more freely than people from non-Mediterranean cultures. Trouble can brew when your children and other family members are not encouraged to say what they feel.  The end results can be indirect aggression because feelings get bottled up inside.

Putting It All Together

The next time someone comments on the birth order of your children, you may want to suggest that, yes, birth order is a factor that helps shape your children but that there are many other factors that influence your children’s personalities and how they get along with one another.



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