Whether you have a middle child, are a middle child, or know a middle child, everyone seems to understand that when it comes to placement in a family that’s the worst place to be. People have so many reasons for believing this; some think that the middle child simply gets forgotten for no reason, others believe that the eldest is the leader and the youngest is the baby, but the middle child has no real place. Other still believe that parents love the eldest child because he was the first, and the youngest because he is the last, but that the middle child has no real special place.
How much of this is true? Possibly none of it and possibly all of it; it could just be an idea that has continued to spread over time, and whenever a middle child happens to feel left out, they determine that it must be because of their birth placement. It could also be very real which would mean that something needs to be done to solve the problem. The question of whether this middle child syndrome is real or not is very debatable, but here are some of the facts that have been found so far.
What Are the Characteristics?
It’s important to keep in mind that just like with any other syndrome, these characteristics are general; just because your child shows different symptoms or doesn’t show any of these does not mean that they are not suffering in some way. Some of the most common characteristics include low self-esteem, jealousy, feelings of emptiness or inadequacy, unfriendliness, and a tendency to be introverted.
Middle children tend to feel that they are unseen, so they may suffer from low self-esteem. Even if they are capable of doing something, they may constantly ask for your help in order to get your attention. That old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” tends to be something that middle children live by. They tend to beat themselves up over the tiniest of failures and do not set goals for themselves.
For some reason, if you look at most families one parent tends to bond with the oldest child while the other tends to form a bond with the youngest. The middle child takes notice of this and feels unloved. This leads to their feelings of inadequacy and that empty feeling that many of us often experience. Jealousy also comes into play here because they resent everything that the other children do. In extreme cases, middle children even act out with what some would call “psychotic” behavior. All of that jealousy and resentment just piles up inside of them until they just lash out in anger or violence.
Middle children are often described as a little, “off,” as they just don’t seem to know how to fit in. The self-esteem issues that they have lead them to be very introverted and somewhat unfriendly. They are not necessarily incapable of making friends, they are just too shy and insecure to try and do so.
As you can see, it’s very difficult to catch middle child syndrome right away because there are two completely opposite and extreme personalities that your child could take on. The angry and aggressive child is definitely more extroverted and voices his anger very clearly. On the other hand, there is the introverted child who is quiet, lonely, and a little weird.
What Are Some Possible Causes?
So far, the causes of the middle child personality have been narrowed down to two main ones; an identity crisis and a lack of support.
Identity crisis is self-explanatory and after reading the characteristics, it’s easy to see that this is clearly a big issue. The middle child has no idea where he fits in, what is expected, or how to gain approval. They feel unimportant, unseen, and unheard; this leaves them wondering where they belong in the grand scheme of things. As previously stated, the oldest and youngest children tend to be the “favorites,” meaning that they form a closer bond with one parent or the other. While parents may not realize it, the middle child is very aware of this favoritism and is left feeling like they never get any attention.
Parents do not mean to be unsupportive towards the middle child, but it appears that it happens anyways. The middle child silently suffers and parents are unaware of it, which only leads to more and more issues. If anything, the middle child needs a little extra attention to ensure that they know that they are loved, appreciated, and heard.
Are There Any Solutions?
In all reality, the solution for middle child syndrome will vary greatly from family to family. In some cases, taking the time to talk with your child and allowing them to express their feelings may be enough. You can find out what it is that they need and then be sure to give it to them. In other cases, there may already be serious damage done, and the child and family may require counseling or other professional help.
One thing to be sure of though, is to not baby the middle child. Putting more emphasis on this syndrome than necessary will only take the issue to a whole new level and cause your child to be even more dependent on you and your approval. The key is to treat all of your children exactly the same; there is no reason to dedicate more time and attention to one child than another (unless there are special needs involved, and then the entire situation changes dramatically), and there is no reason to exclude a child. Take your children’s feelings into careful consideration before speaking or acting; weigh the possibilities of one feeling left out, and do what you can to ensure that things are always as fair and equal as possible.
Whether middle child syndrome makes an appearance in your home will depend a great deal on your parenting and family atmosphere. While you cannot dictate the personality that your child will have, you can do your best to make sure that the middle child does not become invisible.