CHIDLREN / Relative Values

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The Independent Culture
BELLA FREUD, 30, CLOTHES DESIGNER

OLDER OF TWO SISTERS

I'm aware that I'm the older one (pictured left, above) and was always very protective towards my sister, still am. I was the captain and she was my lieutenant. If anyone went near her I could have killed them. I was very scathing about her childlike fantasies. I was always challenging her. She was very romantic and I was a daredevil but I've learnt to be more ordered and calm now. Watching Esther just get on and do things has helped.

ESTHER FREUD, 29, WRITER

YOUNGER OF TWO SISTERS

I actually think we were born in the right order. I'm a natural follower and she a natural leader. She was a bully, but I was happy to be second in command. I took up a lot of her ideas and held on to them, although we don't conform to those roles anymore. I've noticed that the first child is a special event. With the second, parents are much more blase. I think I found this upsetting at first because I'd always thought my birth wasn't as special as my sister's. But I've since noticed that second children are more relaxed and self-contained - I'm terribly self-contained - which is comforting. I also found out that I was more confident than she was, and that amazed me. What I mistook for intrepid fearlessness was bravado.

LIZ KERSHAW, 33, BROADCASTER

OLDER SISTER

Like other eldest children I had to set an example. Andrew, who's 15 months younger, could be very naughty and was to an extent indulged. I grew up with people always saying: 'Elizabeth's so responsible, she's so well behaved'.

Being the eldest made me independent and self-reliant, because Andrew grabbed so much attention when he came along. I learnt not to seek attention and to sort out my own problems.

I led him and was very protective. I still am. He knows it - and no, he doesn't mind it at all. He appreciates it. I think it works well that the younger child needs you to look after them. It helps get over jealousy or rivalry.

ANDY KERSHAW, 32, BROADCASTER

YOUNGER BROTHER

I suppose I still do feel very much like a younger brother (pictured holding reins, below left). My sister is still the first person I'd go to for advice. I'm more impulsive and emotional and she's shrewder and a lot more measured. I inevitably had to follow her into things, but it wasn't a problem. I chose to go to the same university simply because I'd been there a lot while she was there, and there was a sense of familiarity. She was an achiever. I was always aware that 'our Elizabeth was good at school', but it was always a healthy competition. The only time I took the lead was when I was the first to come to London, which irritated her no end.

LAWRENCE ORBACH, 50, PUBLISHER

OLDER BROTHER

I'm aware of the theories on first-born children, and objectively I probably conform to the stereotype. I was under pressure to achieve, to work hard. First-borns are expected to shine in some way, whether it's being the nicest kid on the block or in terms of doing something with their life. It has a lot to do with the family set-up. If achievement is regarded as a major priority, it's hard to shake that off in later life.

I wasn't aware of being an older sibling until my sister was in her teens. Then she was sometimes irritating and sometimes needed protecting.

SUSIE ORBACH, 45, PSYCHOTHERAPIST

YOUNGER SISTER

Siblings don't get the same set of parents. The parents of the first child are more anxious and in a position to give more attention.

The most bizarre thing is that I wasn't aware of it as a child. That was my reality - my older brother was allowed to do things, and I wasn't. But that doesn't mean there wasn't a strong unconscious feeling. Gender is obviously significant in this, but so is birth order.

As an adult I don't think of myself as the younger one, although I'm sure my brother still sees me as the little sister. With my own two children in the same order, I'm terribly aware of my daughter's experience of exclusion. But there are benefits - like access to language and other skills, which means that she learns quickly.

(Photographs omitted)

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