Some things stick with you.
Last fall I heard this piece on NPR about breakthroughs in sibling research. It has been with me ever since—rumbling around in my brain.
This is the quote that got me:
Physically, siblings tended to differ somewhat, but they were a lot more similar on average when compared to children picked at random from the population. That’s also true of cognitive abilities.
“The surprise,” . . . “is when you turn to personality.”
Turns out that on tests that measure personality — stuff like how extroverted you are, how conscientious — siblings are practically like strangers.
“Practically like strangers” yet raised together. I’ve certainly had moments when I’ve thought how can my sister and I have had such a different experience of the same childhood or how could we have played the same games (together), walked to the same school (together) and heard the same family stories and yet turned out so very differently? If you have a sibling chances are you’ve had such thoughts as well. At the heart of my questions lay the idea that nurture shapes people, and since my sister and I were raised in the same environment that should have made us similar.
Turns out that’s just dead wrong when it comes to siblings. Being raised in the same environment helps to make us different. The three theories posited in the radio report sounded eerily familiar—though, as an author not a scientific researcher, I’d given them different names while writing The Sister Queens.