Authors Lisette Schuitemaker and Wies Enthoven have spent years researching the inner-workings of first-born daughters.
We had the chance to catch up with Lisette and Wies to find out more about The Eldest Daughter Effect and how first-born daughters grow up to become “big sisters”... and so much more.
on your book, it seems as though many, if not most, first-born daughters grow
into responsible, dutiful, thoughtful, expeditious, and caring big sisters. What
factors lead to the development of these characteristics in eldest daughters?
imagine for a moment the only child. Her mother dotes on her. Her father, she
wraps around her little finger. She is the sun all planets, grandparents
included, revolve around. All is well in her world.
danger looms on the horizon when her mother cannot lift her anymore and her
father talks about a new baby soon to make a debut.
it sound like a joyous and exciting time so their first-born daughter is
soothed. But once baby number two is on the scene, her world is changed beyond
is she the center of the universe as now another child is cradled on her
mother’s lap. A baby that needs so much time and attention that she, the eldest
daughter, needs to re-evaluate her position within the family constellation.
eldest daughter we spoke with said her mother often told her the story of how she had set her
younger sister in a wastepaper basket after a few weeks. ‘So! Now it can be all
about me again,’ is how her mother had interpreted her act.
confirm that, however close siblings may become, the reconfiguration of the
family comes as a shock to the first child, as shown by many unexpected changes
in the older child’s behavior.
are a few of these behavioral changes?
generally, many girls tend to adapt. They figure out how
they should act so they stand the best chance of still being loved and appreciated.
They become the good girl. Eager to help their parents, they develop an eye for what needs to happen and then they make sure they can do it.
They take responsibility, first for themselves—‘Don’t worry, mama, I can dress myself,’ and then for their siblings— ‘Don’t worry, mama, I will look out for them.’
Taking responsibility, being diligent and dutiful, thus becomes second nature.
Caring for others makes these girls into practical, hands-on individuals. They may not be the life and soul of the party, but they grow up to be thoughtful women who take themselves, others, and life seriously.
They are the ones, like Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Nicola Sturgeon, and Christine Lagarde, who take responsibility.
They are the ones who, like Beyonce, Arianna Huffington, and Oprah Winfrey, have a message to tell the world and are able to build the platform to deliver it.
The day a single child becomes an eldest daughter is a defining moment that sets girls on the course to become the responsible, dutiful, hands-on, thoughtful, and caring women everyone counts on.