The Eldest Daughter Effect: How Firstborn Women—Like Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, J. K. Rowling, and Beyoncé—Harness Their Strengths
Lisette Shuitemaker and Wies Enthoven

I found this book to be fascinating—maybe because I am the eldest daughter (five younger siblings). I learned so much about myself, and it was so comforting to know that there are other women out there with the same challenges and attributes.

These two authors used “grounded theory”; i.e., theory that arises from the experience and data rather than identifying a hypothesis and working to prove or disprove it.

Among their findings, eldest daughters tend to have these five characteristics: responsible, dutiful, hands-on, thoughtful, caring. They need to have work with a purpose. They are also sensitive to criticism. They tend to like school and spend more years studying than later-born siblings.

I laughed out loud at some of the findings:

  • “She would love to be able to take life a little less seriously at times, but she wouldn’t really know how.”
  • “You did something well—so what. You really cannot take time out to congratulate yourself.”
  • “Eldest daughters with a brother right behind them tend to have more friendships with men and are inclined to think friendship needs to have a purpose.”
  • And this one: “Why watch a movie? You have things to do.”

The downsides include not being very good at caring for yourself, pretending you are not vulnerable, taking on too much, being a perfectionist, mood swings, denial of compliments, seeing past accomplishments as insignificant, all-or-nothing thinking, and periodically being sharp and severe.

If you are the eldest daughter, I recommend this book to you. Or, if you have a sister who is the eldest daughter, I recommend this book to you as well.


‘Parents of Daughters Are More Likely to Divorce Than Those with Sons’
The Economist, February 6, 2021

This article is about first-born daughters and the spike in their parents’ divorce rates when the girls are 12–15 years old. This article indicated that the strife tended to be between the first-born daughter and the father and is often about appearance, activities, etc. In the research, however, this pattern did not occur if the father had sisters.

My parents never got divorced, but my father and I had some intense arguments over appearance, clothing, etc. when I was that age. My father did not have sisters; he had only brothers.

In the book The Eldest Daughter Effect, they found that brothers who had sisters tended to have better relationships with women.