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Middle Child Syndrome - does it exist?

(26 Posts)
ponygirl Wed 08-Jun-05 12:48:44

Are children's characters influenced/determined by their "position"? Dh and I have discussed this a lot, as he is the eldest of three boys and there are clear character differences between them which could be argued to be as a result of their position.

I'm concerned as we have three children and I worry that dd (4) in the middle doesn't get enough one-to-one attention because ds1 (6) is very vocal and quite demanding of attention, and because he is as school all day I'm keen to make space for him when he's around. Ds2 (2) is also very vocal and demanding and being 2 with all that that entails, he's very good at making his presence felt! Dd is pretty self-sufficient, but lately, particularly since ds2 stopped sleeping during the day, she's clearly wanted to do things with me, just us. I'd love to be able to do things with her, particularly as she goes to school in September, so there'll be even less time available. I feel quite sad that she's had to become so self-sufficient out of necessity, too much so really. In fact, I feel quite crap about that, I feel I've let her down, though I honestly can't see what I could have done about it.

I've always hoped that when they're a little older it'll be easier for dh and I to do things with them one-to-one that they want to do, but will it be too late?

Sorry, this is really rambling , but I hope you get the gist. Any thoughts?

soapbox Wed 08-Jun-05 12:58:30


I the middle one of 3 girls - yes I think I am more self sufficient but that also makes me less needy IYSWIM which is a more positive take on the situation.

Can you not give your DD some one to one attention while your DS(2) is having his nap and DS1 is at school. That would give you a nice window of time each day which is just hers and hers alone.

ponygirl Wed 08-Jun-05 13:10:04

Thanks soapbox. I'm glad there's a positive view! Unfortunately ds2 doesn't sleep during the day any more.

Maybe I just don't want her to be too self-sufficient. She's still my baby...

[Oh fgs ponygirl, get a grip!]

puddle Wed 08-Jun-05 13:10:04

Pg my dp is the middle child between two girls. He denies it has made the slightest difference to him but I think that being a boy worked in his favour as he had something unique about him, IYKWIM. He was also his mother's favourite (she has admitted this to me) which has been a blessing and a curse, but that's by the by.

I only have two but I've started making extra effort to carve out some one to one time with ds (5). He was starting to fight with dd over me

I have a dd who is 2 and she doesn't like being excluded from anything - I've just started trying to do individual bedtime stories with them which is hard and I've had to be really firm with her about it. I also do quite mundane things with ds - we often go to the supermarket together for example - I make an effort to take him along on the kind of outings I'd have done on my own in the past (just because it would take longer with a child too)so we can have time to chat on the way, he likes helping me, then we have a coffee or something.

What about asking a friend to have your youngest for a couple of hours a week (maybe you could return the favour) so you could have a slot with dd on her own?

jampots Wed 08-Jun-05 13:13:05

Im a sort of middle child as I am a twin. My older sister seemed to have everything "exclusive" to her and also being older was allowed to do stuff etc. and my twin sister (15 mins younger) always acted quite babyish. Consequently this did make me more independent and less needy

ponygirl Wed 08-Jun-05 13:13:31

Puddle - I agree that dd being the only girl helps, and I do think it gives a special edge to my relationship with her, after all, she and I are outnumbered!

I might think about trying to arrange a 'swap' with another mother who has a similar aged boy. I'll just have to get over my hang-up about 'they're my children, it's my job to look after them'. Stupid, I know!

Sid Wed 08-Jun-05 13:46:48

Ponygirl, have another one, then you won't have to worry about it!

zebraZ Wed 08-Jun-05 13:54:03

No help here, Ponygirl, but I am in the same boat. Same order & ages (boy-girl-boy, approx 2 year gaps). DD is coming up to 4yo, is very unassertive compared to the boys... she's demanding I go do something with her right now, so suppose I better!

Almost impossible to give DD 1-to-1 attention, though she has no intention of pretending to be self-sufficient, ha, as if!!

fatmomma Wed 08-Jun-05 14:07:48

In my experience it definately makes a difference. I have an older sister (argumentative, rebellious, insensitive), then there is me (self-reliant, independent, conflict-phobic) and then my little brother (spoilt, selfish, egotistical).

I think wherever you fall in the family you will have some 'positional' traits but it depends on your parents behaviour how prominent these become. My mother was and still is very inconsistent in her approach to us.

What I am trying to say is that there are some things that you just can't avoid, such as lack of time for one-on-one play but you can make up for that by treating them equally in the ways that you can.

What you say about your dd having to be self-reliant really struck a cord with me - my brother calls me a 'self-fulfilling prophecy' (he has a psychology degree). The fact that you are even aware of it means you most likely have it under control and it's never to late to address these things. If my mother suddenly started paying attention to me, after 33 years of ignoring me, I would be thrilled .

I hope that doesn't sound like I am saying you are doing anything wrong, I'm not great at expressing things that make me emotional! Sounds like you are doing a great job, you are obviously a very thoughtful mother .

Gobbledigook Wed 08-Jun-05 14:10:56

I've asked my brother this (I have 2 younger brothers) and he says not at all and always felt 'equal' in every respect to me and my younger brother.

I'm interested though as I have 3 boys and sometimes worry that ds2 will be left out in some way. I don't think he does though and in Sept when ds1 goes to school, he'll get quite a lot of attention as I'll be doing stuff during the day with just him and the baby.

ponygirl Wed 08-Jun-05 14:20:04

Sid - hahahahahaha! That was the sound of my ssanity going south just at the thought!

Thanks ZebraZ - at least I'm not alone!

Fatmomma - gosh! <<tear brought to the eye>> It's very interesting looking at what they're like compared to "where" they are. Ds1 is definitely the leader-type (his three best friends are the youngest of 3 or 4), he's the innovator and ground-breaker. With ds2, I'd hate him to play on being the "baby": I don't treat him as such, and he doesn't behave like it, so maybe it'll be ok. He's just desperately trying to catch up with the others (who he adores, and vice versa) and does everything way before they did. I think you're right about treating them the same in the things where I can do it.

God, what is it about motherhood that makes you look for things to flog yourself about?! As if there isn't enough already!

ponygirl Wed 08-Jun-05 14:22:04

Good luck, Gobbledigook. It definitely get better for dd after ds1 started school, it just took a bit of a downturn again when ds2 got a bit bigger! He just hates to be left out of anything that's going on. Poor dd has to share every game, puzzle and activity that's going.

AnotherHelen Wed 08-Jun-05 15:16:57

Wow it never occured to me there would be a 'middle one' problem!!! im due to have my third in september should i be worried/preparing ds2??

Janh Wed 08-Jun-05 15:25:24

Their position definitely has an effect on their personality but not a determining one, there is a lot more to it than that - for a start your dd is the only girl!

I have 4, so no "middle" as such, but DD2, who was the youngest for 3 years and then the middle for 5 more, was always much more like fatmomma's "eldest" personality and DD1 more like her "middle" one.

Blackduck Wed 08-Jun-05 15:46:25

I think it probably is a combination of gender (are you not only the middle child, but the only girl/boy, or are you one of two?), personality (both innate and developed), and closeness of age. I'm youngest of three and the only girl, my brother (the middle one) would definately feel there is a middle child syndrome - but I think that is as much the fact he is the second boy, only 20 months younger and his personality.

coppertop Wed 08-Jun-05 15:55:51

I grew up as no.4 of 5 children - 3 girls and 2 boys. My brother was/is the favourite and so has never really had to be self-reliant despite being the middle child. Growing up I was probably the most self-reliant although not necessarily through choice.

Enid Wed 08-Jun-05 15:57:07

fatmomma - lol

Enid Wed 08-Jun-05 15:57:49

if my sister is reading this I mean thats what fatmommas post sounded like (not that you are horrible)

Gobbledigook Wed 08-Jun-05 18:13:27

Blackduck - you may be right about the age being a factor. Myself and my brothers are very close together in age (just under 2 yrs between each of us) so we pretty much did similar things growing up. Also, my brother was not the only boy so perhaps that, plus the closeness in age, plus the fact that we were all treated the same is why he doesn't feel as though he had 'middle child syndrome'!

Mine are all close together too (age gaps are 19m and 21m) and all boys so perhaps that will help ds2?

soyabean Wed 08-Jun-05 18:23:15

Hi I am eldest of four and always thought I wd have 2 or 4 kids to avoid having a middle child, I was a bit paranoid abt it. But we have three: boy/girl/boy and I think they are all fine! Ds1 is, like others have said, quite a leader, very confident and clever Dh and I both eldest of 4 but not leadership material at all, btw!). Dd is and has alwasys been very friendly, easy going, a really lovely person although over sensitive. Ds2 is funny, cheeky, less talkative but quite a show off at the same time.
It is certainly something I try to be aware of but it is an advantage that our middle one is the only girl so unique in that way.
Thats the same for you so hopefully will help. Mine are 13/10/5 now so it does continue and I do remember wqorrying abt it when dd was little but in general I think it has helped make her the lovely person she is.

fatmomma Wed 08-Jun-05 19:13:12

Enid - lol, it does sound like that doesn't it. In reality its:

Sister - horrible (I really don't like her )
Me - OK
Brother - lovely (he is witty, sensitive and caring as well as the other stuff)

It now looks like we got better as our parents had more practice .

ponygirl Wed 08-Jun-05 21:10:12

Any further thoughts from the evening crowd?

compo Wed 08-Jun-05 21:13:00

There is the danger though of stereotyping too much. I am the youngest of four and people often say I must be the spoilt one etc. But tbh my sister (next up to me in age) is far more dependent on my parents. I'm the only one who lives way from where we all grew up and i think I'm much more independent than my brother and 2 sisters!

compo Wed 08-Jun-05 21:13:27

sorry should read 'away'

galaxy Wed 08-Jun-05 21:16:23

I'm a middle child. Sis is 22 months older than me and brother is 38 months younger. Sis was dreadfully shy as a child and I was bubbly and outgoing and a real chatterbox. When bruv was born, I apparently turned into a right little cow (jealousy) and became a right handful until I was in my teens when I started to calm down.

Sis and bruv had a fairly close relationship - I didn't although that's changed now and am very close to sis (although not to him).

Main memories are being told I wasn't old enough Or I was old enough to know better.

Hasn't had any negative impact on me in later life though

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