Emily Wyckoff

Middle child syndrome – is it real?

My younger daughter has started referring to herself as “the middle child” on a regular basis. She brings it up all the time and peppers her conversations with, “…since I am the middle child,” or “you should feel sorry for me because I am the middle child,” etc. I am amazed as we have never referred to her as the “middle child” (she is flanked by her older sister and younger brother) – she is simply one of three kids. When my husband and I were in the midst of planning our family (haha – if you can call it that) – he wanted two, I wanted four, three was our compromise – I was insistent on the fact that there would be no “middle child” (which I associated with the child who would be overlooked) in our family. Each child would get the special attention they deserved. Little did I know at that time that there is some validity to birth order’s effect on personality.

We have taken a lot of steps along the way to stave off middle child-itis. We moved to a new house when my oldest daughter was one and my younger daughter was on the way. At that time, I was hoping for more than two kids and we intentionally gave in utero baby the biggest, nicest bedroom in house. My younger daughter has the opposite taste in clothes from her older sister (princess vs. tomboy) so hand-me-downs are kept to a minimum ( I don’t force her to wear pink). Activities are selected based on our kids’ interests – my older daughter took ballet, while my younger daughter preferred tumbling. And still, she is playing the middle child card.

Birth order is actually pretty fascinating and I checked out www.birthorderpersonality.com for more info. It’s actually not such a bad thing to be a middle child – my daughter is in the company of Donald Trump, Ted Kennedy, Tim Allen, and Julia Roberts, among others. (Of course I always think of Jan Brady – “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”). Middle children, including my daughter tend to be “peacemakers, mediators, able to keep secrets, not spoiled, take risks, are realistic, get along well with others, read people well, independent, loyal to supporters, competitive, and imaginative.” Even though she’s only eight, that’s a pretty accurate description of her character so far.  And pretty great.

The bottom line? All children need one-on-one time with their parents, they probably don’t get enough, and parents will continue to feel guilty. As for my middle child, she should wave her middle child flag proudly. The next time she brings up her middle child status, I will tell her that she is lucky for that role. Any middle children or parents of middle children out there? Please lend your advice.


17 Responses to “Middle child syndrome – is it real?”

  1. Meryl says:

    I was the Middle Child…Let’s see…I felt that my younger brother…let’s just call him “Baby Jesus” got All the attention….then my older sister got ALL the understanding and explanation…Me …I mainly got in trouble trying to get attention. I resented my mother for playing favorites for years and years and am just now building a solid relationship with her…She is 73..I am 50

  2. Ed says:

    If she’s really a tomboy tell her to suck it up and stop complaining. But you should still try your best to treat all the kids pretty much equally. Personally I hate complainers…things always look better on the other side of the fence. Some people just don’t seem to have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s place and realize that.
    Life is not always fair or equal and we have to look for ways to better ourselves and not expect others to do it or to accomodate us.
    Complaining about one’s lot is not a good thing in life. Its a form of dependency and doesn’t bode well for long-term relationships…ie. “I feel bad so I’ll make others around me feel it too”. Maybe have her take a psychology class if she’s 16 or older.

  3. Tammy says:

    I have a middle child out of three girls. She is the most compassionate,artistic,peace making child, she is quick as a whip and started reading before she was four. She’s always trying to help everyone else feel better. She’s my princess/tomboy rolled in one. Out of the three she’s been to the emergency room the most times and she’s only 7! She wears a cute little skort while being one of the fiercest players on the soccer field. Yet she is the first one to cry about having her feelings hurt, or being over looked, or just about anything it seems. I never used to believe in the whole “middle-child” thing, but ever since I had three kids I can honostly say It does exist! They don’t need a psycology class they just need love!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I am a middle child, I am 32! Still to this very day my older brother gets what he wants, he has no major ambitions because my parents provide for him and his kids! My younger sister could set of a nuclear bomb to destroy the world and my parents would not say one bad thing about her, she’s their baby! I work and raise my kids, and get very little help from them! It carries over to the grand kids as well, my siblings both have kids and my parents spend more time with them then with mine! Does middle child syndrome exist, YES. But I also think it depends on the parents and how they raise and treat each child!

  5. Nancy says:

    I am the third out of five, talk about middle.
    I was also the oldest girl ,this brought a different dinamic into birth order.I was and still am the peacemaker, problem solver, and everyones “BIG” sister, even my older brothers came to me with problems. I really didn’t have middle child syndrome for myself but my siblings did seem to use me as a scapegoat, which really irritated my mother to no end; she would say I had more common sense than all of them put together then remind me who everyone would come running to when they have aproblem or a “boo-boo”. Being middle is a good thing -the best of both sides

  6. shayla says:

    haha. that’s pretty funny. i’m a middlechild. i put it like that because i use it as an email address and sometimes as a screen name. if your kid is a tomboy and has all those personality traits you mentioned i’d say she is probably just trying to get under your skin by mentioning she is the middle child. not to be snotty or anything, but to carve out a place for herself. i have an older sister and younger brother. my sister, of course, got more freedom and my brother got TONS of sympathy. i wasn’t neglected, tho. i was just not expected to be responsible when my mother wasn’t around(like my sister)and i wasn’t always let off the hook when it came to being punished (like my brother. who could work up tears like nobodys business.) it’s just one of those things. i mean, it’s pretty funny actually. like if people care to notice, as your daughter has made sure you do.. it can be kind of cool. you get freedom of expression. you have someone around who gets handed more responsibility and someone for your parents to fuss over and in the mean time you get to make offhand remarks and enjoy a position in life that is about defining yourself. i personally was always very attached to my mother and couldn’t tell you much about where my sister and brother fell in that respect. all i know is i was pretty close to my mother and only felt mild annoyance in conflict with my brother as he was short, skinny and kinda sensitive with long messy hair and when he cried he looked like one of those christian children orphans. i mean, if your kid is saying “you should feel sorry for me” that’s probably a good sign. kids making a show of trying to milk a situation for what it’s worth are displaying knowledge of social dynamics as well as a certain measure of security.

  7. james says:

    Middle kids are great ! But it’s a real syndrome.

  8. Kevin says:

    As it is I too was a middle child, I had a older brother, a older sister, and then a younger brother and a younger sister, needless to say if you held up you’re hand and held up the middle finger well that was me, and that’s what I have got most of my life from my siblings and my father, my mother died when I was young but I know she loved me, or from what I can remember she did, I am now 53 and it is still going on today, I am known as the black sheep of the family and have not talked to any of them in almost 15 years now. I hate it, but as of today I don’t even know where they even live. So all I can say is if you even care about having a family, now or in the future show all of them the same respect and let them all know they all! mean everything to you, don’t have favorites. OMG I still have so much anger over this, this is not right and should have never happenend.

  9. Kevin says:

    As it is I too was a middle child, I had a older brother, a older sister, and then a younger brother and a younger sister, needless to say if you held up you’re hand and held up the middle finger well that was me, and that’s what I have got most of my life from my siblings and my father, my mother died when I was young but I know she loved me, or from what I can remember she did, I am now 53 and it is still going on today, I am known as the black sheep of the family and have not talked to any of them in almost 15 years now. I hate it, but as of today I don’t even know where they even live. So all I can say is if you even care about having a family, now or in the future show all of them the same respect and let them all know they all! mean everything to you, don’t have favorites. OMG I still have so much anger over this, this is not right and should have never happenend.

  10. Nakita87 says:

    Hi. I’m a middle child of 9 children, and I must say. I’m having the time of my life. I have older siblings to ask for advice, I have younger siblings to spoil and give advice to. And most importantly I have parents I can ask about anything, because they’ve been there already.
    When it comes to how great I do in life, because I’m the middle child; well, ltes say I’m the least of worries for my parents. Education is check, work is check, a place to stay is check, finance is check.

    So my advice is: Give her your love, your experience and understanding. And don’t forget.. they are all three special, because they are your gifts.

  11. Mary says:

    Interesting that all of the responses here are from middle children! I am number 4 of 7 and definitely the non-conformist. Hooray and thank goodness. If Al Gore is the Thinking Man’s Thinking Man, I’d like to be so presumptious as to call myself the Thinking Woman’s Thinking Woman!

    There is nothing to recommend really. As you say, your daughter is “playing the middle child card”. You understand clearly therefore that children play cards–based on the hands they are dealt. Card dealers come in all shapes and forms however. While birth-order and genetics play some role in the kinds of cards we have to play with, our environment (family, friends, religion, schools, history, culture, and day-to-day interactions) play a huge role. The best rules for the card game that you are playing with your daughter are those that allow fair and open play, variations in the games, and exposure to new games. In other words, expose her to life, broad knowledge and mix it with plenty of empathy, ethics and love. And avoid words like “tomboy” if possible. How often do we refer to boys in similar terms? Boys and girls can do, be, or think across traditional, “socially constructed”, gender lines.

  12. Nancy says:

    I am the 4th child of 7. Two girls and a boy older–two girls and a boy younger…can’t get any more middle than that. I am definitely a middle child…the forgotten one but the one depended on at the same time. I am working hard at listening to people and not interupting them before they finish. I think I needed to do that as a child to be heard.
    I am in my 50′s and I think my mom is finally paying attention to me and yes, it carries on to my child too.

  13. Catey says:

    I too am the middle child, I am 28 and I am left out of many things family-related, which I have found to be an advantage in my own family life. Sometimes it bothers me, but I know I don’t get asked to take members of my side in when they need help. Not to say I wouldn’t because my younger sister has lived with me or we lived together, several times. I have my own children and like to focus on them and my health. So, while the rest of my family live in another town together, I have my husband and children, I thank God for everyday and hope counseling will benefit others for whatever reason as much as it has benefited me.

  14. Ann says:

    For Kevin…
    As the 2nd child of 6 and being older now, I can tell you it is not worth it to never talk to your siblings again. I know they long to hear from you as you want to hear from them.. Stop this now and do the right thing for your family and neices and nephews(whom you WILL meet in the future)
    Stay positive but get in touch..the sooner Kevin, the better for ALL of you.. Read the book “The Secret” I say this cause I’ve been there and we are all together again.They ARE waiting to hear from you.. do Facebook and my prayers are with you..Ann

  15. Mitzi Edwards says:

    See, I knew there was this middlechild syndrome from listening to all my friends who have the middle child in their homes. That is why I never wanted an odd number of children. But, God granted us with 3 children. So, I decided to avoid the problems by making sure my middle child did not get the pokes and prods from their younger and older sibling..BOY was I sooo wrong, my middle child is my oldest daughter and she can be SLEEPING and the other two will punch on her or pull her hair. I am at my wits end when it comes to stopping the rivilary between them all. My oldest and only son was the ONLY child for almost 4 years, so he is being Very spoiled to the point its impossible to do anything. My youngest had medical problems so she was looked after and had the attention. So, I vowed that my middle child would have some time for her to be the center of attention..Yes, each of them get time alone with both my husband and I but, then the MONSTER attitude comes out in our son and the girls especially the middle one just sits back and lets her brother get the attention. Her self-esteem has nearly hit rock bottom, she won’t hardly go outside and he makes fun of everything she does, says or wears…

  16. Marcia says:

    I am the youngest of three–not a middle child. My brother was the first child and appeared to be my mother’s favorite. My sister was the beautiful middle child and received the most attention because she misbehaved. She labeled herself(!) “the black sheep of the family”, was irritable and difficult to get along with. I was the youngest child. There was nothing in my baby book, I got all my sister’s hand-me-downs (which I loved), and I was the peacemaker. I’m wondering if the middle child syndrome is most prevalent amongst families of three children?

  17. Terri says:

    I’m a middle child and I felt the syndrome also. I’m now 44 years old. I have and older sister and younger brother. I now realize I would much rather be middle than the oldest. My sister had way more responsibility than I did and my brother,well he got away with more than we did.

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