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To ask if there is any truth to "middle-child sydrome"?

(108 Posts)
FromHereToNextTuesday Sat 05-Jan-13 22:48:35

I'm having my third child, and am hearing more and more of the problems facing a middle child. Am I really exposing the 2nd to a lifetime of disadvantages by giving her a a younger sibling? Really??

amillionyears Sun 06-Jan-13 09:33:53

Loquace, maybe?

amillionyears Sun 06-Jan-13 09:34:52

I do think, like another poster said, that the gender orders involved may make a difference.

amillionyears Sun 06-Jan-13 09:37:12

Loquce, also like you said, I would agree that parental action can affect things.
Youngest child can be babied, eldest child is given the most responsibility etc

pictish Sun 06-Jan-13 09:40:26

I agree with loquace regarding what the teacher said.

I'd take that with a masive pinch of salt tbh.

PacificDogwood Sun 06-Jan-13 09:40:35

We have 4 boys - 2 close in age, a 4 year gap, another 2 close in age.
DS2 and DS3 cannot stand each other and are in fierce competition to each other.
I have no idea whether it is because they are both middle children, or because of their personalities, or because DS3 'stole' DS2's youngest child status? All I know, it is wearing...

No idea whether a middle child syndrome exists: my dad was one of 3; he had 2, his brother adopted one, his sister had none. My husband was the youngest of 3; he wanted 2 or 4. Make of that what you want.

DeckSwabber Sun 06-Jan-13 09:51:33

I really think it depends from family to family.

Both my parents were eldest (though my mother is a twin and technically younger that her twin - they were the eldest of six). I am the younger of two. (I chose another younger of two as a partner).

I wonder if either of my parents gave any thought to what it was like to be a 'younger'. My dad didn't really like his younger brother and my mum and her twin both had to do a lot of childcare for their siblings and admits to being quite nasty to her younger sisters and resentful of the youngest boy. I didn't feel very loved by my mother and funnily enough I wanted her to have another baby. I was quite upset when she said she had had enough children and had been sterilized.

I have three boys and while our 'family' interests have been influenced more by my older child, and what I spend on him usually sets the bar for the others, I think I'm more aware of the younger ones and try to encourage them to do their own thing. I try to chat to each one on their own for a few minutes each day (doesn't always work). They get on pretty well though they are very different.

Loquace Sun 06-Jan-13 09:54:30


Not if she is that convinced of her powers of deduction, no, not maybe.

If she is convinced of the correctness of the hypothosies that leaves little room for her to see the elements that do not support her pet theory and given her assertion that she can always tell, she is failing to note that she is overestimating her ability to be a nutral observer.

It's not a slamming critisim of her as a person (As humans we are all a bit prone to confirmation bias) just a critisim of her methods of deduction and her conclusions that based on her inability to see her own bias becuase she is invested in her expertise as "birth order" predictor.

We all do it to some extent with a area that sparked an interest.

Loquace Sun 06-Jan-13 10:01:31

Youngest child can be babied, eldest child is given the most responsibility etc

Yes. But there are too many variables in degree of application, too many personalities combined with specific parental behavoirs to support a sweeping statement that birth order WILL USUALLY create specific outcomes.

In the case of my family the extent to which the parents felt confident in assigning "birth order issues" as the cause of a specific set of the child's behavoirs mattered far more. They created a self fulfilling prophecy.

amillionyears Sun 06-Jan-13 10:05:17

So are you saying the op may be right to be a little concerned?

Shattereddreams Sun 06-Jan-13 10:06:09

I'm the middle in a girl girl boy family.
I feel exactly as the other posters with same dynamics.

I was over looked, I am diplomatic, peacemaker and hugely sensitive and independent.

I hate all forms of solo competitiveness, I am practical and have a over inflated mothering instinct.

I only have two children, most certainly planned that way.

lollilou Sun 06-Jan-13 10:06:11

It does make a difference yes - I think it can be stronger in families where there are 3 the same gender. e.g. - eldest one is the "brainbox", little one is the good looking one - middle one not as brainy as eldest, not as good looking as littlest, struggles to find an identity and various issues that spring from that. It's avoidable though - make sure that each DC has 1:1 parent time sometimes and gets praise and encouragement as an individual not just as one-of-three.

Absolutely spot on.

amillionyears Sun 06-Jan-13 10:08:41

Ok. I have several children. By definition there is a middle one, or more.

I would say to the op, to just keep an eye out for the middle one.
She may not end up getting as much attention, parental imput, stimualtion, personal growth through more interactive play and learning, that she may have got without the third child.
But hopefully, if you bear that in mind, she may not be disadvantaged at all.

mum23girlys Sun 06-Jan-13 10:14:00

I agree with other posters who say it depends on gender. I was middle of 3. An older brother and younger sister. I think I was unfairly expected to do far more than my share and I was definitely treated differently. It's a good thing though as I am very independent and everything I've got my dh and I have worked hard for. My sister on the other hand can't even get a car insurance quote without getting my mum to do it. Worrying as she is 30, a mum and a teacher!!!

When we were kids there was often a 2 against 1 war going on in our house. Usually against me grin however it's not had any lasting effects and didn't stop me having 3 of my own. My 3 are all girls.and appear to get on great. Early days yet though as youngest only 2. I think I know the signs to watch out for and Will try hard not take anyone feel excluded.

Having said all that my middle daughter is definitely the hardest work but is by far the most loving. My mum always said she had middle child syndrome even as a toddler and before we'd even spoken about the chance of a third

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Sun 06-Jan-13 10:14:20

I'm a middle child of three girls. Oldest had attitude, youngest had temper tantrums. I was always self sufficient and happy to entertain myself, therefore I was the favourite. We all knew, my parents used to call me best in nest.

I am in no way implying that this is a good thing to do, but i was definitely not a sufferer of the middle child syndrome, and the fact that my parents told me i was the easiest to be with, made me never crave their attention, whereas both my sisters still crave attention from my parents.

My ExDP was a middle child of three boys, and he had a negative experience. The oldest was 'the first' child, whilst the youngest was the baby, and he was ignored and under appreciated.

I am the only middle child i know that had a positive experience. However i think if you are aware of it and make an effort to balance out your attention etc. there is no reason why your DD would ever feel left out.

SugarplumMary Sun 06-Jan-13 10:15:56

I am middle child.
I have 3 DC .

I have a brother and sister and my 3 DC are the same mix two girls and one boy though in a different order.

The 2 DC in our family have the worst poisons dynamics in both DH and my family.

I think parenting and personalities are going to make as much difference as birth order and age gaps I would suggest would also be in there.

It's something I'm aware of and try and gurad against though.

DeckSwabber Sun 06-Jan-13 10:18:42

I think you have to go with what feels right for you.

I like having three. I like it that all of them will have two siblings to turn to in the future.

mum23girlys Sun 06-Jan-13 10:19:46

Have to add I have to be very careful as eldest is exceptionally clever. She's just one of those kids that is good at everything. Middle dd always says she's proud of her sister when she's announced at assembly for whatever reason. But it must be hard and I try to make massive fuss of dd2 as well. Their teacher is aware of it too and is fabulous. (they are twins)

twooter Sun 06-Jan-13 10:30:25

I have 3 the same, and I'm ashamed to say that she often doesn't get as much attention as the others. Dc3 is very clingy and follows me around a lot of the time, dd1 is very insecure, and needs lots of reassurance to build up her confidence, whereas dd2 has always been very outgoing and self confident, and also tends to always be involved in games with the other two.

We do make sure that she gets taken out on her own a lot though, whether its just to the shops or the tip, or a more special day, and its lovely having her all herself.

Loquace Sun 06-Jan-13 10:42:34

So are you saying the op may be right to be a little concerned?

I am saying the OP should be careful when exploring what she wants to believe to be the correct answer to her question

Anecdotes are not facts, but they can convince us that we "know stuff to be true" when if fact ...we don't. In some cases in our false state of "knowing stuff" we can go on to apply cod psychology that will impact how we evaluate each child's behaviours via fixed and vastly different filters based on birth order expectations. In most cases it won't cause any major issues, it will be a benign error of assessing on's expertise and not much else.

But not always.

For example.

An older child being responsible in a specific context may be ascribed to birth order and go uncommented upon because there is an expectation based on the false premise that this is the natural order of things due to them being the eldest. Whereas when they fail to be responsible in a wholly typical age/stage related manner, they may get it far more in the neck and have have far less slack cut because "birth order thinking" trumps bearing in mind their state of development.

Conversely in similar contexts the youngest may enjoy high praise for responsibility where they should be displaying an age specific capacity anyway, and get off scott free when they don't, with all sorts of excuses made for them.

BUT It doesn't follow that the eldest will the grow up responsible and the younger not so much. However it does make it hard for the family to see their now adult children as they actually are.

Case in point BIL is still seen as the responsible one and my husband the irresponsible baby. And how they are treated and are spoken to reflects that.

All this despite BIL being six figures in debt, his marriage shredded, his child deeply confused and his business on the point of folding ...all due to poor impulse control and heart not head thinking.

Dh on the other hand is still written off and dismissed as irresponsible, despite owning his home outright, being debt free and prudent with money, in a happy, stable marriage of long standing, with a kid doing well and a business that is surviving the economic crisis due to forward planning.

All the tangible evidence points to one reality, but the family and the "children" themselves see an imaginary reality based on ...a load of bollocks basically.

None of which does anybody any good in terms of family relations and self image, not least because you can't stop making the same mistakes again and again if you are always being told that the actual primary cause is not an ill from which you suffer due to your "birth order" birthright.

I think we need to challenge the idea that it's birth order that creates "issues" or "pre-ordained outcomes" and focus more on the potential disadvantages created thanks to the assumption that birth order matters. A false premise potentially responsible for leading to us conditioning ourselves to stereotype and pigeonhole our children and conditioning our children's self image.

amillionyears Sun 06-Jan-13 10:47:36

I think from that then, that you think the op is right to be concerned.
Because people around the ops children, will treat the three children differently according to birth order.

Loquace Sun 06-Jan-13 10:55:52

that you think the op is right to be concerned.

I think the OP needs to be concerned with the quality of the data she bases her final conclusions on (which will impact how she sees and deals with her children's needs), not the birth order of her children.

Becuase if she prioritises the former, the latter is not likely to be a parental created issue.

Loquace Sun 06-Jan-13 11:01:11

Sorry posted too soon.

A lack of parental reinforcement of birth order expectations is a massively effective vaccination against the opinions of third parties, be they teachers who think they have a magic crystal ball in their head where their brain ought to be, or relatives who like to make family "tidy" by sticking round pegs in square holes due to their inability to note a lack of corners.

Ditto parents of onlies. Cos there is a similar state of false state of knowing and banging on about "unavoidable outcomes" in that context too.

FoofyShmooffer Sun 06-Jan-13 11:08:29

I know that both my husband and my dad were middle children who were either ignored, put upon or controlled, sandwiched between the golden child and the baby.

I think the difference here is that if you are aware of the possibilities of this and work towards actively avoiding the prospect of ' middle child syndrome' then you've little to worry about.

Loquace Sun 06-Jan-13 11:18:18

It's only wiki, but it is a good place to start looking into the question of the so called "middle child syndrome" and start the link hopping to find available studies and the names worth googling for more info and finding other studies not mentioned in the wiki.

Birth order is defined as a person's rank by age among his or her siblings. Birth order is often believed to have a profound and lasting effect on psychological development. This assertion has been repeatedly challenged by researchers, yet birth order continues to have a strong presence in pop psychology and popular culture

there was, however, some tendency for people to perceive birth order effects when they were aware of the birth order of an individual

Harris concludes that birth order effects keep turning up because people keep looking for them, and keep analyzing and reanalyzing their data until they find them

Kt8791 Sun 06-Jan-13 11:20:51

I am one of 3, girl, boy, girl. My brother doesn't have middle child syndrome but IMO that is because he is the only boy. It s more like to occur if all 3 are the same gender. I am expecting dc3 ( have 2 boys) if as the parent you are aware of "middle child syndrome" the middle is likely to be treated the same. I will do my best to treat all three of my children the same. If anything I am guilty of expecting too much of my eldest who is only 14 months older than his brother.

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