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BT18 Keynote 03 - Birth Order and Human Behavior: Understanding an Elusive Relationship - Frank J. Sulloway

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Topic Areas:
Keynotes |  Brief Therapy |  Psychology |  Psychotherapy
Brief Therapy Conference |  Brief Therapy Conference 2018 |  Online Continuing Education
Frank Sulloway, PhD
Course Levels:
Master Degree or Higher in Health-Related Field
Audio and Video
Original Program Date:
Dec 07, 2018
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For more than half a century, studies of birth order and human behavior have been mired in disagreement over the existence, magnitude, and specific nature of this relationship. In this talk I argue that much of the previous research in this field has been substantially impeded because birth order is an imperfect proxy for multiple within-family influences that shape personality development within families, but that are overlooked in most studies. Much of the previous disagreements in this field can also be can be attributed to other methodological problems, including a failure to consider individual differences and their sometimes complex interactions with birth order, as well as the role of the behavioral context. This talk presents the results of a novel research design aimed at overcoming these problems and involving 438,251 responses collected using Internet surveys. These results reveal extensive suppression of birth order effects, which in turn indicates that birth order appears to explains upwards of ten the variance in personality compared with what has previously been documented.

Educational Objectives:

  1. Describe what is known about birth order and its relationship with personality.
  2. Describe the actual causes of birth order effects, given that birth order is really just a proxy for certain aspects of family dynamics that are generally overlooked in studies on this subject. 
  3. Describe how remarkably context sensitive birth order effects are in the expression of personality, which helps to explain why so much controversy still exists about the nature and magnitude of these effects. 

*Sessions may be edited for content and to preserve confidentiality*



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Frank Sulloway, PhD's Profile

Frank Sulloway, PhD Related Seminars and Products

Frank J. Sulloway is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology, and is also a member of the Institute of Personality and Social Research, at the University of California, Berkeley.  He has a Ph.D. in the history of science from Harvard University (1978) and is a recipient of a MacArthur Award (1984-1989).  His book Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend (1979) provides a radical reanalysis of the origins and validity of psychoanalysis and received the Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society.  In addition, Dr. Sulloway has written about the nature of scientific creativity, and, on this general topic, he has published extensively on the life and theories of Charles Darwin.