Middle Child Syndrome

When you’re neither here nor there…


Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychiatrist was one of the first theorists to suggest that birth order influences personality. His ‘Birth Order Theory’ suggests that with the arrival of a second child, the first child is ‘dethroned’. Meanwhile, younger and only children are thought to be spoiled and pampered. He deduced that birth order shapes a child’s personality in later life.

Although there are many different factors that influence people’s personalities and the effects of birth order may be changed, it also cannot be denied that birth order can have a profound effect on personality.

In the middle of it

Middle child syndrome is a popular term that represents the special challenges faced by middle children — namely those who are neither the youngest nor the oldest child — and it has often been misunderstood as a negative thing.

When a person is said to be struggling with middle child syndrome, the label seems to imply that his personality is flawed in some way. This is partly because of the negative stereotypes linked with being a middle child. However, it turns out that there are plenty of benefits to being a middle child.


Creative and independent

For one thing, there is usually more pressure on the first born with regards to ‘setting’ the standard, to be an ‘example’ for their younger siblings and to achieve more. Middle children are often free from such pressures and thus are able to be more creative and feel less inclination to conform.

In fact, Adler says that the middle child may have more drive to compete and perhaps even eclipse the achievements of his older sibling.

Not having the ‘authority’ given to the oldest sibling nor the ‘baby’ card given to the youngest, middle children are often very good at negotiating and at getting everyone to get along.

They will try to manage what they want along with what the other person wants in order to achieve the ultimate goal. The middle child is also more likely to be independent because they have had to cope with less attention from their parents. More attention is paid to the oldest child because whatever he or she does is a first in the family and thus more exciting. Youngest children tend to receive more focus from parents as they’re often thought of as the little one or the “baby” of the family.


Reserved and Resentful

On the down side, being a middle child could cause the development of less-than-positive character traits. Middle children are thought to be more reserved and secretive because of the inadequate amount of attention given to them by their parents and they are often resentful of the attention given to their other siblings. They may also place more importance on their friends and peer groups instead of family.

Psychologist and bestselling author, Dr. Kevin Leman says that middle children are the most difficult to predict. He says that they are almost always the opposite of their older sibling and the differences could be in many ways including earning capabilities, predispositions, sexuality and even choices in pets.

Interestingly, birth order may also influence parenting style. Dr. Leman suggests that parents can unconsciously identify with the child who occupies the same spot they occupied themselves.

For instance, a mom who is a last-born may think that the mischievous antics of her youngest son are harmless and adorable but the first-born dad may think that his son is immature.

First, middle or last, a person’s birth order should not dictate the direction of their lives or their ability to create success and happiness for themselves. Yes, it may play a part in shaping an individual’s personality but ultimately, it is up to each individual to make a conscious effort to better himself.


Did you know?

52% of the United States’ presidents were middle-born children.



Tips For Parents of Middle Children

  • Take note!

His first steps are as important as his older sibling’s first step.

  • Take heed!

He is more likely to avoid sharing his feelings so make time to sit down and listen to him, one on one.

  • Take photos!

He will notice the amount of photographs taken of his other siblings and compare them to his own.

  • Take control!

Empower your middle child and let him make a decision, whether it is what’s for dessert or who gets the bowl first.

  • Take charge!

Don’t let the youngest ‘get away’ with murder and ensure that all children help with chores.

  • Take pride!

All your children are different. Comparing them would be detrimental. Embrace their uniqueness.


Famous Middle Children

  • Co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates
  • Pop star, Britney Spears
  • Talk show host, David Letterman
  • Business magnate, investor and philanthropist, Warren Buffet
  • 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln



Cbsnews.com; Livestrong.com; www.parents.com

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