If you’re not a middle child, you may have never heard of middle child syndrome. If you are the middle child and still don’t know what middle child syndrome is, you may have been suffering from the symptoms all along without realizing it. So, what is middle child syndrome?
Middle child syndrome, in its simplest terms, is the feeling of exclusion that’s created by one’s placement in their family’s birth order. As a middle child, they are no longer the baby of the family and were never the oldest. They don’t get the responsibility typical to the eldest, nor the spoils of being the youngest.
What Is Middle Child Syndrome?
Middle child syndrome is usually brought up when discussing birth order’s impact on personality types. Older siblings tend to be the more reliable and responsible types, which can be seen as they are the first to “try” things and reach milestones. Younger siblings are typically more easy-going, as parents usually take a more relaxed approach to raising the youngest siblings. Where does that leave the middle child?
Feeling left out and unattended can bring about two prominent traits in middle children: rebellion and people-pleasing. If their siblings are the type to be praised for their behavior or accomplishments, middle children are more likely to act out to get the attention of their family. While the wants and needs of the eldest sibling and youngest sibling may be different, the middle child often steps in to be the middle ground and help create compromise.
How Real Is It?
There’s not a lot of science behind the term, it’s more of a stereotype. A 2017 study revealed second-born children are more likely to have behavioral issues than the firstborn, specifically boys. These behavioral issues include acting out, challenging parents’ authority, even having problems in school and with the law. The study proposed a few possible reasons.
- Differences in parental attention — researchers found maternal attention decreased for second-borns.
- Firstborns as role models. It’s normal for kids to look up to their older siblings. However, if they’re basing their decisions off their siblings who aren’t much older and wiser than them, they may be having trouble with good decision-making.
The term is most often used by middle children to describe their own trials and tribulations. If your kid is going around saying they are a victim of middle child syndrome, it can very well just be a source of humor from them, but it can also reveal how your child is doing mentally.
Perhaps your child is feeling significantly left out within the family, whether it be by their siblings or by you. It might be a good time to intervene and have a conversation with your child about how they’re feeling — a great starting point for a discussion on mental health.