Alumni Profile: Jeffrey Kluger, J.D. ’79
Quick now: Who has had the greatest effect on shaping your life? Your parents? A historical figure? A teacher?
None of the above, says Time senior writer Jeffrey Kluger, J.D. ’79, in his new book, The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us. The journalist best known for co-authoring Apollo 13: Lost Moon (on which the 1995 blockbuster movie Apollo 13 was based) posits that our siblings mold us most, and hopefully in positive ways.
Kluger is well equipped to tackle the subject of siblings: He has three full brothers and twin half-siblings; he also had two stepsisters prior to a divorce in the family. His complex family history coupled with a 2005 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology devoted to siblings spurred Kluger to write his latest book.
“The biggest thing I learned is the profound way that siblings shape one another,” he says. “What goes on in the playroom is recapitulated on the playground and in the boardroom, which makes sense.
“Children learn how to test-drive life with siblings before they actually have to get on the road.”
Those valuable lessons, he explains, include understanding conflict resolution, empathy, when to stand up for oneself and the importance of listening. He likens parents to doctors, who see patients briefly before moving along, and siblings to nurses, who are there around the clock.
“Although I finished law school, I knew that what I really wanted to do was to move to New York and work as a journalist.”
In his youth, Kluger dreamed of finding work as a freshman senator in Washington, D.C. When that career path didn’t pan out, he enrolled at the UB School of Law.
“Although I finished law school, I knew that what I really wanted to do was to move to New York and work as a journalist,” Kluger says. “Journalism came to me more naturally than law did, and though my legal education did help me become a better researcher and reporter, I still seemed better suited toward the kind of research a reporter does.”
So, only days after his final law exams, Kluger headed to Hoboken, N.J., with one of his brothers. “My first job was as a staffer for the SoHo Weekly News, which aspired to be a competitor to the Village Voice,” he says.
The confessed “popular science junkie” continued his career at Science Digest and Discover as well as at Family Circle—where, as he puts it, he was the “most unqualified person possible to be a women’s health editor, but it was a great place to meet young, single women”—before landing at Time in 1996. Along the way, he’s authored eight books.
Despite the research he highlights in his latest tome, Kluger advises only children not to worry; contradicting traditional wisdom from as recently as 60 years ago, contemporary research shows that singletons tend to do just fine.