Think you got Middle Child Syndrome?
Birth order is defined as the rank of siblings by age. The concept brings to light the nature versus nurture struggle that has for so long been a major topic in the field of psychology. The effects of birth order are really just an extension of this nature versus nurture debate. An Austrian psychoanalyst, Alfred Adler first came up with his theories of birth order in the early 1900’s, and how that can affect a child’s personality. There are five big personality traits that are determined by birth order. Those are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Where you are aligned in your family unit can have an impact on many different traits you will have, and how all those elements play out in your personality. In a two child family, there is clearly an oldest child and a younger child. There obviously isn’t a middle child. In families with at least three or more children, those children wedged in the middle are considered the “middle child.” It also gets a little more complicated in the basic classification when the siblings are more than five years apart, because that large of an age gap means that the new person born will have some older child traits. With having more than two kids, you run the risk of having a middle child with middle child syndrome, but is middle child syndrome real? Is it actually a diagnosis? What are some of the characteristics and middle child syndrome symptoms? When thinking about how many kids to have you should take all this into consideration. The family dynamic aspect of psychology has been studied for a very long time.
Pop culture throughout history has classically made fun of middle children. They are considered weird or misunderstood. Remember “The Brady Bunch” that old tv show from the 70’s? Jan Brady played by Eve Plumb was portrayed as a classic middle child with a bit of middle child syndrome, constantly struggling to fit in with her less stressed siblings. Jealous of the older ones, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” was a popular refrain of hers, and bossy to the younger ones, Bobby and Cindy who were just so cute. Jan was the awkward one with glasses who didn’t have the beauty of her sisters, and was desperate to be noticed by anyone. That’s just one example within the pop culture vernacular that comes to mind. Another example of that would be the tv show in the 80’s and 90’s “Full House.” Stephanie the middle child was always in more trouble than her perfect baby sister, Michelle or her overachieving big sister, DJ. It’s funny as well that these actresses even real life grew up to complete the stereotype. Stephanie was played by Jodie Sweetin who when she got older in real life had quite a few issues with drug addiction. Her older sister on the show on the other hand, Candace Cameron Burre married and become a doting perfect mother to three young children. She is also seen on tv promoting her books which preach good old fashioned family values. Perfect oldest child. Type A personality. What about the baby of the family? The baby, Michelle was played by those famous Olsen twins, Mary Kate and Ashley who have grown up to have a multi-billion dollar fashion and fragrance empire. Crazy amounts of success. It’s no wonder that Jodie Sweetin had some middle child issues later in life. TV often portrays these family stereotypes in all their comical glory.
In real life some other traits of middles is that they are sometimes the peacekeepers of the family. Trying to make everyone happy by not taking sides or defending the actions of older or younger children is quite common for the middle ones. Or middle children can often feel left out or invisible. This can either make the middle child a resentful person or can just make them more independent. Many middle children go out of their way to create special friendships outside of their families. Their chosen families are very important to them because middle children are very social people. It’s possible as well that they didn’t get all the accolades that the oldest gets from going through the common list of “firsts.” While on the opposite spectrum the baby of the family gets coddled over and well “babied” because they are the last of the bunch. So where does that leave a middle child, not first and not special which can have a lasting impact on their adulthood. Do you have middle child syndrome? Take this quick middle child syndrome quiz to find out.
- Do you feel alienated from your family?
- Do you feel alienated from your friends?
- Do you often lock yourself inside your room?
- Ever felt used by friends?
- Do you get easily depressed from criticism?
- Have you ever dreamed of something but didn’t have the courage to pursue it?
- Do you feel envy and even hatred towards your parents or siblings?
- Have you ever done things just to be accepted or noticed by others?
- Did you feel that you were pushed to achieve things that you did not enjoy your childhood?
- Ever felt that you did not belong and no one loves you and the world will be better without you?
Meaning of scores: Count the number of YES answers to the questions above
0-3 Congratulations! You’re perfectly normal.
4-5 You just suffer low self-esteem. Nothing weird, go fix your hair and you will do fine.
6-8 Do not be scared. It seems you have mild Middle Child Personality. Self-help and guidance will often cure the condition.
9-10 Unfortunately, you suffer a severe condition of Middle Child Syndrome, try not to do anything rash. Emotional support from love ones along with psychiatric help will solve this.
Don’t stress, if you are a middle child you aren’t alone. Throughout history there have been many great people who are middle children. Frank Sulloway, in his 1998 book, “Born to Rebel,” examined the historical roles played by middle children. He found that middle, or “later born,” children tended to become rebels far more often than oldest children. This landmark work illuminates the crucial influence that family niches have on personality, and documents the profound consequences of sibling competition–not only on individual development within the family, but on society as a whole. Born to Rebel’s pathbreaking insights promise to revolutionize the nature of psychological, sociological, and historical inquiry. He documents that Charles Darwin was a middle child and look at all he accomplished. In fact there is even a “National Middle Child” day that is celebrated in August on the 12th. Other famous middle children are Abe Lincoln, Herbert Hoover, Warren Buffett, Jennifer Lopez, Judd Apatow, David Letterman, Bill Gates, and even Britney Spears. Well, maybe that last one isn’t a good examples. She’s had her share of ups and downs, but at least she’s starring in her own concert venue in Las Vegas now!
Middle child syndrome is a very real thing. It may sound like a little bit of psycho-babble but it’s really just a small indicator of someone’s personality. Many other factors growing up come into play. There is a fantastic book about the middle child syndrome phenomenon called “The Secret Powers of Middle Children–How Middleborns Can Harness Their Remarkable and Unexpected Gifts” by Catherine Salmon and Katrin Shuleman. In this book the authors describe everything from early middle children traits to how middleborns will fair in relationships, career, and life in general. They go on to give advice to parents of middle children and middles themselves. This family dynamic type of research is a specialized category of psychology, but however you truly feel about where you are in your family, being a middle child will definitely impact your personality.