Loss of Parent or Sibling
Some people experience the loss of a parent or sibling early in life through divorce, death, or separation. What effect does this have on their subsequent relationships? Do they attempt to re-create this loss, trying to master the trauma in their current relationships? The interaction between loss and birth order was examined by Walter Toman in Family Constellation. Toman found that loss can cause a replication of the trauma. Frank Sulloway took another look in Born to Rebel and found that loss of a parent can cause the older sibling to taken on parental roles, especially in families where a substitute parent does not come into the family. When firstborns assume the parental role, laterborns become particularly radical. (Born to Rebel, p. 137.) All of this has serious implications for romantic compatibility.
Conflict with Parents
One of Sulloway's most brilliant insights was that when a firstborn experiences extraordinary conflict with a parent it causes the child to veer out of the normal firstborn path (which usually involves identifying with parental authority, and becoming conservative and religious). Firstborns who experience significant parental conflict develop laterborns traits, have diverse interests, and become absorbed with art and self-expression. It's useful to take parental conflict into consideration when calculating a firstborn's romantic best and worst match. I have done this in The Birth Order Book of Love. In such cases, a firstborn often finds him- or herself attracted to another firstborn.
Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love are two firstborns who experienced the loss of a parent early in life. Cobain's parents divorced when he was only seven, and as a result he could be said to have lost his father. Courtney Love experienced even more severe loss since her parents divorced when she was only four and she lived in foster homes as a child. We could expect Kurt and Courtney to become rebellious, to reject authority, and to develop multiple interests, especially in art. Both musicians who flouted authority, they support the findings about honorary laterborns and suggest that firstborns who experience early loss need to be considered differently from ordinary firstborns for the purposes of compatibility analysis. (Photo: Kurt Cobain.)