Friday, September 7, 2012

One Step BEFORE the 3 Core Questions...Birth Order

Yesterday I mentioned that I needed to answer the three core questions about each of my main characters before moving on. Well, when I sat down to work on it I realized there was something else I needed to consider.

Birth Order
My training in psychology always has me thinking in terms of family dynamic. What was the role each person played in the family? Back in the early 1980s when I studied Alfred Adler's theory of Birth Order and Personality, I began applying this information (along with the meaning and origin of names when selecting fictional characters' names) to my family groups to try to reconstruct a possible family dynamic.

In a brief examination of the birth order and ages of the children in Isaac Carter's household in 1853, I noticed an immediate pattern:

  1. Comfort (21)     }2 years between Comfort and William
  2. William (19)     }
  3. Mary Ann (15)  }4 years between William and Mary Ann
  4. ISAAC (14)      }1 year between Mary Ann and ISAAC
  5. Nancy (10)        }4 years between ISAAC and Nancy
  6. Annanias (8)     }2 years between Nancy and Annanias
  7. Zach (5)            }3 years between Annanias and Zach
Parents' Ages at Birth of Children
By maintaining the same numbering sequence as above for the children, we can construct a simple chart for the ages of the parents at each child's birth in order to gain some insight on how their ages might have contributed to the family dynamic:


By the time young Isaac was born, his mother was 25 years old with four children, ranging in ages newborn to seven years. 

Two Families in One
There are also two periods in the family's life: first, when the parents were both alive; and secondly, following their death and the children's separation from each other. Young Isaac's parents, Isaac and Rhoda Carter, died somewhere between October 8, 1850 and September 1853. Because of what we've learned about apprenticeship laws, we can safely assume that if his parents did not die together, his mother most likely would have died first...perhaps in childbirth, illness, or accident...followed by the father. It is estimated that it could take up to six months for an estate to be settled; however, no estate records for Isaac Carter have yet been discovered. 

Since William and Mary Ann were not yet of age when their parents died, I believe that they might have been living with another family member other than Kelsor & Sarah Braddock at the time of Kelsor's petition to the Craven County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions to place the younger children in the care of their family friend, William Temple. Even though they may have been living in the same residence as their sister, Comfort, who did not marry until July 1864, I do not believe that she received custody of them since she was a female, not gainfully employed to care for minor siblings; and also, no petition could be found bearing her name in regards to placement of the minor children.

So, while young Isaac was the middle child in his first family group, he became the functional oldest child in the second family group. At fourteen years of age, he then took on the responsibility of looking after his younger siblings...the youngest of whom was "taken to fits" (most likely some seizure disorder). 

How would a shift in functional birth order affect personality?
From the Adlerian Overview of Birth Order Characteristics chart (link above) you can see that middle children often feel sandwiched and may become even-tempered, a fighter for injustice, and may even find themselves operating as a mediator between two factions. Oldest children, on the other hand, often find themselves as the one to lead by example. The adult expectations upon them are usually high, and they often find themselves in roles of authority. When a child is a natural born first child, he often feels displaced by the birth of the second child and seeks the father's approval; however, in the case of a functional first child, this longing might not be as strong. Although, in a case like this where the father is deceased, the child might long for the father's presence to guide him, or to return him to his middle child state. In either case, the death of the father would most certainly have a marked affect on young Isaac.

What now?
By applying the natural tendencies of children's birth order, both natural born and functional, we can now assess changes in personality and behavior even into their adult life.

The next step might be to look at the affects of grief upon the children...and also that of separation of the younger siblings from the older. 

In the mean time...back to the 3 core questions...

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