Do you get 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 long been an important topic in psychology. The effects of birth order are just an extension of this nature versus nurture debate. An Austrian psychoanalyst, Alfred Adler, first developed his birth order theories in the early 1900s and how that can affect a child’s personality. Five big personality traits are determined by birth order. Those are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Where you are aligned in your family unit can impact many different traits you will have and how all those elements play out in your personality. The oldest child and a younger one are clearly in a two-child family. There isn’t a middle child. In families with at least three or more children, those wedged in the middle are considered the “middle child.” It also gets a little more complicated in the primary classification when the siblings are more than five years apart because that large age gap means the new person born will have some older child traits.
With more than two kids, you risk having a middle child with middle child syndrome, but is middle child syndrome real? Is it a diagnosis? What are some of the characteristics and middle child syndrome symptoms? When considering how many kids to have, you should consider all this. The dynamic family aspect of psychology has been studied for a 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 ’70s? Jan Brady, played by Eve Plumb, was portrayed as a classic middle child with some 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 her sisters’ beauty and was desperate to be noticed by anyone. That’s just one example of pop culture vernacular that comes to mind.
Another example would be the tv show in the 80s and 90s, “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 that these actresses, even in 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 became 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 are 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 make them more independent. Many middle children go out of their way to create special friendships outside their families.
Also Read: On Angry Adults and Teens
Their chosen families are critical to them because middle children are very social people. It’s also possible that they didn’t get all the accolades that the oldest gets from going through the standard list of “firsts.” While on the opposite spectrum, the family’s baby gets coddled over and “babied” because they are the last of the bunch. So, where does that leave a middle child, not first and not unique, 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 dare 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 think who pushed you to achieve something you did not enjoy in your childhood?
- Ever felt that you did not belong and no one loved you, and the world would 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 suffer low self-esteem. Nothing weird; fix your hair, and you will do fine.
6-8 Do not be scared. It seems you have a 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 loved ones and psychiatric help will solve this.
Don’t stress; you aren’t alone if you are a middle child. Throughout history, there have been many great people who are middle children. In his 1998 book “Born to Rebel,” Frank Sulloway ” examined the historical roles of middle children. He found that middle, or “later born,” children tended to become rebels far more often than the 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 the psychological, sociological, and historical inquiry. He documents that Charles Darwin was a middle child and looks at his accomplishments. Even a “National Middle Child” day 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 example. She’s had her share of ups and downs, but at least she’s starring in her concert venue in Las Vegas now!
Middle child syndrome is a real thing. It may sound like a bit of psycho-babble, but it’s just a tiny 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 Shulman.
In this book, the authors describe everything from early middle children traits to how middleborns will fair in relationships, careers, and life. They go on to advise parents of middle children and middle themselves. This dynamic family type of research is a specialized category of psychology. Still, you genuinely feel about where you are in your family; being a middle child will impact your personality.