Born to Rebel ranked number 35 on Amazon.com's list of best-selling books for 1996 and was also picked as a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times.
Synopsis: Why are individuals from the same family often no more similar in personality than those from different families? Why, within the same family, do some children conform to authority, whereas others rebel? The family, it turns out, is not a "shared environment" but rather a set of niches that provide siblings with different outlooks.
At the heart of this pioneering inquiry into human development is a fundamental insight: that the personalities of siblings vary because they adopt different strategies in the universal quest for parental favor. Frank J. Sulloway's most important finding is that eldest children identify with parents and authority, and support for the status quo, whereas younger children rebel against it. Drawing on the work of Darwin and the new science of evolutionary psychology, he transforms our understanding of personality development and its origins in the family.
Most persuasively, Sulloway's findings offer conclusive evidence that the family, with its powerful interpersonal dynamics, is a cauldron for the great revolutionary advances that drive historical change. Through his analysis of revolutions in science and social thought, from the Reformation to Darwin's theory of natural selection, Sulloway demonstrates that the primary engine of history is located within families, not between them, as Marx believed.
This landmark work illuminates the crucial influence that family niches have on personality, and documents the profound consequences of sibling competition--not only on individual development within the family, but on society as a whole. Born to Rebel's pathbreaking insights promise to revolutionize the nature of psychological, sociological, and historical inquiry.
Comments about Born to Rebel:
"Sulloway has delivered one of the most authoritative and important treatises in the history of the social sciences." --Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of On Human Nature
"Every once in a long while a book is published which changes a whole field of scholarship, perhaps even everybody's thinking. Such a book is Born to Rebel." --Ernst Mayr, Agassiz Professor of Zoology Emeritus, Harvard University
"Sulloway's book will change the way each of us thinks about the past, the future, and ourselves. I believe this book will have the same kind of long-term impacts as Freud's and Darwin's." --Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of Mother Nature and The Woman That Never Evolved
"Born to Rebel is a masterpiece, extraordinary to the highest degree. It develops its subject matter in an original and incredibly arresting manner, and it flows with the excitement of a good novel. I believe it is the first book which really uses Darwinian evolution to produce a new way of doing history successfully." --I. Bernard Cohen, Harvard University, Victor S. Thomas Professor of the History of Science, Emeritus
"A quarter century in the making, this brilliant, searching, provocative, and readable treatise promises to remain definitive for at least as long. Whether firstborns or laterborns, all of us will learn fascinating and surprising details about ourselves." --Robert K. Merton, Columbia University, University Professor Emeritus
"Born to Rebel is a magnificent intellectual accomplishment, at once sweeping and intimate; it affords a whole new perspective on both human history and everyday life." --Robert Wright, author of Nonzero and The Moral Animal
Excerpts from Reviews of Born to Rebel:
"This book represents a stunning achievement." --Derek Bickerton, The New York Times Book Review
"Fascinating and persuasive. . . . Birth order places children in different 'niches,' requiring disparate modes of competition for maximal success. Sulloway's substantial birth-order effects therefore provide our best and ultimate documentation of nurture's power."--Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, June 1997.
"An extraordinary new study. . . . Sulloway's argument demolishes all simplistic notions of nature and nurture." --Matt Ridley, The Times (London)
"Fascinating and convincing." --Jared Diamond, The New York Review of Books
"Bertrand Russel once stated that the power of a thinker's contribution lies less in the uniqueness of his ideas, more in the skill with which the thinker defends his vies against all possible criticism. Sulloway's approach is admirable in this respect--and particularly so for a work that is primarily historical and archival in nature. Throughout, he considers alternative explanations, produces relevant data where he can, and suggests further studies that could resolve paradoxes and contradictions. . . . Clearly, Sulloway intended to write a book 'in the grand tradition' and, by and large, he has succeeded in doing so." --Howard Gardner, Nature
"Dr. Sulloway has built a formidable case. . . . Forget Adam Smith's invisible hand, Karl Marx's class struggles and Sigmund Freud's Oedipal clashes, he says. Radical change in human affairs is wrought by the perennial rivalry between eldest children and their younger siblings." --David, Stipp, Wall Street Journal
"Sulloway's birth order theory shares the parsimonious elegance of the Darwinian principles that were its inspiration. . . . Born to Rebel [has] an interpretive nuance rarely found in quantitative studies." --Robert Boynton, The New Yorker
"An important and valuable study that will define research agendas for years to come. It is also hugely fun to read." --Chet Raymo, Boston Globe
"Sulloway has gone on to do what Darwin
did not do in Origin of Species, which is
to supplement the anecdotal material showing how
birth order can work with statistical
demonstrations that it does work. . . . I
urge my colleagues who have not yet done so to
wake up to the seriousness and worth of this book
and its arguments and take a detailed look at its
conclusions and its methods.--Mott T. Greene,
Frank Sulloway, Ph.D.