Tommy Walker

Birth Order Thoughts about Wichita’s BTK

Or maybe this is more about me.

What Your Birth Order Says About You

I’ve been meaning to do a proper review of Bind Torture Kill, or an assessment of Dennis Rader through the book which I just finished reading, but maybe it is meant to come dribbling out sporadically over a period of many days.

Often I have wondered what birth order has meant in distinguishing my experience growing up from that of my younger brother’s. We are similar psychologically, but why aren’t we even closer to being identical twins? And why, in the world at large, is a Ma Barker gang not the rule in dysfunctional families?

Dennis Rader was the eldest of five children, and in a book that offered next to no insight on the matter of Rader’s development (because it wasn’t and probably couldn’t be that kind of book), there was one tantalizing offering about his family environment. Namely, that while the mother was loving, the father was “strict but fair”.

Happens that words of this very sort have been used to describe my father’s father, who also had five kids. “Strict but fair” has been the testimony of all or most of his children, who at the same time acknowledge that he beat them often. An example of my grandfather’s ‘fairness’ was his now and then whipping his kids without cause on the grounds that they had probably done something wrong that he hadn’t caught them for since the last time they had been whipped. It is only recently that the mother of this clan has come forward with accusations that he beat her as well, but she is almost universally dismissed as being batshit crazy. I personally don’t find the charges too farfetched, knowing for a fact he could get a good laugh out of walking on my adolescent back while I was sleeping on his floor over a holiday.

Two things birth order related that could have tipped the scales, persuading the eldest Rader kid to veer down a criminal path. One is that Dennis more than anyone, as a first and briefly an only, was in position to partake in the drama of competing Alpha Males, ready to displace his father as Man of the House should his father be judged as unworthy. If Dad only won under protest– and a ‘good’ kid like Dennis might have had cause to protest that he didn’t do anything wrong in the periods between presumed beatings– then an entire childhood might have been frittered away, waiting for the decision to be reversed.

The other factor is really more about the age of the parents when a child is very young. The firstborn gets the youngest, healthiest, most energetic parents, and when we’re talking dysfunctionality, that means they get the parents who have the most piss and vinegar in them. How Rader experienced “strict but fair”, if that was indeed his take, might have been very different from how his siblings experienced it after their father had mellowed.


A post script on descending IQs by order of birth. I have heard tales of one family with five children that illustrate this tendency dramatically. Fetal alcohol syndrome was at the root. The firstborn was MENSA material, the second toward the top of her field, but then the third kid wasn’t much more than functional, the fourth one retarded, and the fifth child unable to function outside an institution.


March 26, 2012 - Posted by | Comments Around the Web | , , , , , ,

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