Middle Child Syndrome – Knowing What It Truly Is

Written by Fatima Mahboob
11 · 09 · 17
Middle Child Syndrome – What It Truly Is for Parents

Though it may sound rather odd, the middle child syndrome is a real and serious problem. It is part of every race, culture, lifestyle, and family in the world. When first discovered, it typically involves the middle child feeling neglected. On the surface, this is all that the stereotypical image of middle child syndrome looks like. The fact is; there is much more to it. So, let us delve into the journey of finding out.

Defining Middle Child Syndrome

It does sound like a disease but it is not a disease. It is a remark or a name to a condition, merely denoting something observed over the course of time. The debate began with Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler, two of the first pioneering psychologists who created many of the modern day concepts used in psychology today. They disagreed about how birth order affects personality traits. Adler developed the “Birth Order Theory” explaining that being a middle child meant that they were “healthier and easy going” while older and younger siblings constantly struggle for success. They tend to have a more difficult or different lifestyle than other siblings. That did not sit well with Freud and hence, both of them parted ways, Adler founded his own school of psychology.

Adler’s Theory of Birth Order

While Adler did contribute much to what people originally believed about birth order, here is a gentle reminder. He developed the theory in order for psychologists to understand their patients better in a wider social context. It is the only tool that he used to assess his patients. The stereotypes regarding Middle Child Syndrome believe that the middle children are often “neglected” and end up being resentful and bitter are because of the lack of information. There is more to the birth order theory than neglect. This is not the only aspect that shapes our personality. Besides, one may wonder if it really does shape our personalities, though.

Growing Up in the Middle

Again, there is a set of stereotypes associated with the Middle Child Syndrome. Adler theorized that because there is an older sibling who is the first for everything, the middle children grow up to be competitive and rebellious. They struggle with finding their place in the family and the world and attempting to do their best. They may even be hot tempered and likely become injustice fighters. You can read more in the table summarizing his findings on the effects of birth order on personality. He stated that middle children are eager for parental praise and develop talents in order to get it. This is why they go to extra lengths to have a struggling lifestyle.

Kevin Leman, wrote “The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are,” and Frank Sulloway, PhD wrote “Born to Rebel” explained to parents that the traits associated with the Middle Child are not something they are born with. Rather, it is due to circumstance. For example if the older sibling adopts the role of the clown of the family, the middle sibling will adopt a role that opposes the older sibling in this case as being the serious person in the family.

Does the Middle Child Syndrome Really Affect Personality?

In an interview with Insider, the New York-based board certified psychologist Dr. Laurie Zelinger, PhD and Katrin Schumann, co-author of “The Secret Power of Middle Children,” explained the Middle Child Syndrome. They have made it clear that there is a lack of research about middle children. Researchers usually overlook them, which is why there is a lot of debate about Birth Order and how it affects personality.

Recent research in 2015, have found out that traits traditionally associated with belonging to a specific sibling order are false. While there are some characteristics that do appear, for example the older sibling being more withdrawn this was not always the case. Another study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), conducted by Julia M. Rohrera, Boris Egloffb, and Stefan C. Schmuklea, concluded that sibling order does not affect personality.

Benefits of Growing Up as a Middle Child

Recent research has concluded that birth order does not affect you personality traits. However, previous research says that there is a positive effect of growing up in the middle. Apart from the stereotypes associated with the Middle Child Syndrome, people overlook the positive aspects of growing up as the sibling in between.

·         Great Negotiators

Because they have to make sure their voice gets across as children, they are better at reaching an agreement and negotiating a deal. They are more patient. It seems that of this stems from the fact that they have to wait around and share their things with both older siblings and younger siblings. They can analyze all aspects of a problem and be empathetic listeners.

·         They are Revolutionaries

Charles Darwin, Neslon Mandela, Susan B. Anthony were people who revolutionized the world, as we know it today by bringing the theory of evolution. They ended the apartheid and fought to end slavery and women rights respectively. This is because they are more open to risks. In an interview with Psychology Today, Katrin Schumann, co-author of ‘The Secret Power of Middle Children’ explains that a study showed that 85 percent of middles were open to new ideas like cold fusion, as compared to only 50 percent of first-born children.

·         They Make Excellent Friends

Because not all the parental focus in on them, they tend to go out and build relationships that are more meaningful with their friends. Parenting expert Gail Gross, PhD tells Reader’s Digest that they choose their friends as an “extended family” or the family of their choice. This is order to make up for the lack of attention, which makes them great friends, because they are legitimately seeking to build a long and lasting relationships.

It has been fun to discover about the Middle Child Syndrome and debunk its myths. The bottom line is that while we might think that the order of birth affects us, this is not so, recent research proves this. Remember in the end, we create our own miracles; no one can define us but ourselves. With that in mind, go forth and achieve your dreams!

Just as a note, if a child has a loved one who has cancer, it requires special support. MesotheliomaHope may be a good place to look up.

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Fatima Mahboob