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  1. #1
    Senior Member Eileen's Avatar
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    Default Siblings, only-child-hood, and extra/introversion

    I've been thinking of the impact of siblings (or lack of siblings) on expressions of introversion and extraversion. I guess that I think that intro/extraversion is pretty hard-wired (visible even in infants and toddlers!) but I wonder what siblings (and maybe their types in relation to ours) or not having them affects how we deal with our orientations.

    For my part, I'm an introvert, and sometimes a fairly shy one (but sometimes not shy at all). Both of my siblings are/were also introverted, but we played well together and, I think, learned how to cooperate, draw boundaries, and basically interact with each other socially. As an effectively oldest child (though I was chronologically in the middle), I often managed our play and tended to be the one to include or exclude (I wasn't always nice, alas!). I can be a little socially skittish, but I feel that I have some kind of interactive tool box to draw from when put in a situation where I have to extravert and relate to people. I also tend to be a node of friendship in the regular social interactions that I do have; even though I AM shy and quiet, I tend to be the person who brings people into a space together to interact, and then I step back and socialize as the introvert I am (in small pockets, though I will flit about as I am comfortable). I'm not sure how much that has to do with having siblings, but it doesn't seem irrelevant, anyway...

    My boyfriend is an extravert, but he was an only child--and I suspect that this is a reason that he's a sort of funny (shy) extravert. He has always sought out brothers and sisters and has often been lonely, I think. He's very conscious of "roles" and wants to fill a particular one in social situations (as the entertainer and sometimes the advisor). He's uncomfortable socially if he doesn't know where he fits. He seems less flexible about the roles he can fill, and I wonder if he just never had the same kind of practice I had having siblings. I think that, even though I was the bossy kid, I learned a certain kind of negotiation (which was perhaps easier for me to learn in my situation because we were all introverted kids, instead of being a mix) that he still struggles with as an adult.

    Anyway. Just some thoughts. What do you think?
    INFJ

    "I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

  2. #2
    That chalkboard guy Matthew_Z's Avatar
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    My sister and I are both introverts. We've generally learned to stay out of each others' lives and bond once in a while when we're both bored. She wasn't always like that, used to always want to be out there having fun or whatnot. I think I've rubbed off on my sister to some extent. We've both had days of spending 18 waking hours without leaving 30 feet of where either of us woke up.
    If a deaf INFP falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Gerbah's Avatar
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    I was an only child and I can relate to some of the things you say about your boyfriend. I think that having siblings or not does have some effect on your social skills. I also think it really depends on your circumstances as a whole though. When I was very young, I was actually very extraverted, from what my mum says. I had no fear to talk to anyone, including adults, and was interested in people. This was also the time when I was living in my original country where I had a large and friendly extended family who were an everyday presence. Then my parents emigrated when I was 5. I then became very introverted, I think because of the cultural isolation and that I wasn't very close to my parents and other problems. I did have childhood friends but it's not the same as having your own siblings. As an adult I am an introvert.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who is also an only child and she is very extraverted, friendly, kind and reaches out to people easily. Her parents were very socially and politically active and the whole extended family is very close.

  4. #4
    Senior Member ubiquitous1's Avatar
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    I am an only child and very introverted. I have always been introverted, so I can't say that it has had an effect on me. My SJ parents encouraged my introversion.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Qre:us's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    My boyfriend is an extravert, but he was an only child--and I suspect that this is a reason that he's a sort of funny (shy) extravert. He has always sought out brothers and sisters and has often been lonely, I think. He's very conscious of "roles" and wants to fill a particular one in social situations (as the entertainer and sometimes the advisor). He's uncomfortable socially if he doesn't know where he fits. He seems less flexible about the roles he can fill, and I wonder if he just never had the same kind of practice I had having siblings. I think that, even though I was the bossy kid, I learned a certain kind of negotiation (which was perhaps easier for me to learn in my situation because we were all introverted kids, instead of being a mix) that he still struggles with as an adult.

    Anyway. Just some thoughts. What do you think?
    I am an only child and a "funny" extravert too (not shy), but, in that, I can get very selfish about needing/wanting my solitude.

    When I was a kid, I felt lonely and really wanted siblings, and fabricated tales of having siblings.

    And, as I grew up, and into my circumstances, I started to revel in my solitude, such that, as an adult, it's something that is quite important to me, once in a while.

    However, unlike your bf, I'm not very socially uncomfortable, nor do I question where I fit. For me, it's more of how everything/one fits around me.
    In interactions, for me, I'm the focal point and from this point of reference, I see (work towards) how everything plays out.

    I bring out different aspects of myself, in order to target the group I'm interacting with.....I'm very 'go with the flow' in that regard.

    I will admit though, I'm not really good at negotiations in that I like my independence quite a lot, to the point where, I'd rather do it (my way).

    But, for things that I have no real vested interest in (most things in life), I can negotiate far better than my friends who have siblings. I think this is because as a kid, I had a lot more interactions with adults, and getting them to 'take me seriously' and holding conversations with them, learning how to 'manipulate' them (), and, knowing that, unlike those with siblings, where friendships were a given (even if you fight, they'll never leave as they live with you)...I had to learn to use my own wares to secure friendships, loyalty and bonding (as, it wasn't a given/secure deal). This helped me learn how to negotiate with a diplomacy that I haven't seen in my friends with siblings.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Eileen's Avatar
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    interesting, Qre:us. I can't say that I've noted any real patterns among people who are only children because I just don't know enough of them, so all of my speculations are coming from talking to my BF. When I try to compare him to my other friend who is an only child, I find that it's not particularly easy to make generalizations. She is adept at the social negotiation that I describe in myself as a person with siblings, though her childhood--as you describe--was particularly full of adults (and less full of fellow children). So I suppose it's possible that siblings aren't the be-all and end-all of interaction school.
    INFJ

    "I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

  7. #7
    Senior Member sofmarhof's Avatar
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    All the only children I can think of that I know are extraverts. If they want friends, they have to actively seek them out.

  8. #8
    Senior Member InfiniteIntrigue's Avatar
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    I have a fourteen year old brother. He's an introvert, but he tests as an extrovert (ESTP). I think he projects what he considers the ideal teenage boy. I'm an an introvert too, but my brother is definitely more assertive than I am. That doesn't mean I won't snap at him when he's a a pain in the ass.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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  9. #9
    The Duchess of Oddity Queen Kat's Avatar
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    Only child. Never been allowed to play outside. All of my friends I had as a child moved away just when I really started bonding with them. When I was little, not a single baby sitter wanted to take care of me because I was a bit of a pain in the ass, so I've been home alone a lot. My life is pretty lonely, but I don't really bother. Somehow every MBTI-test I took in the past half year has considered me to be an extravert and since I haven't come across a test that told me that I was an introvert in a long time, I must admit that I believe it.
    I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower. The TV was obviously on. I used to fly myself and I said, "There's one terrible pilot."
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  10. #10
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