What is Middle Child Syndrome?


Authored by Suzanne Alicie in Parenting 
Published on 07-27-2009

Many parents and their children have heard of a thing called middle child syndrome. This is when a middle child acts out, or behaves in a certain way, due to the fact that he is neither the oldest nor the youngest. Therapists and physicians have coined this term to cover a variety of behavior issues. Since when has your birth order affected how you personality develops? After all each child is unique and develops their own interests and behaviors right? This is true to an extent, but just as where the child lives will have an impact on their speaking pattern, their place in the family will have an impact on their personality.

Middle children have parents who have already gone through all the firsts with the oldest child. This can be both a good and bad thing. The middle child may feel slighted when the parent doesn’t seem as excited with feats they achieve. This can lead middle children to act out in ways different from the older child to distinguish themselves in the parent’s eyes. However they don’t understand that having parents who are old hands at the parenting job is a benefit for them. By now the parents know what to do and what not to do.

Many middle children have issues with receiving hand me down toys and clothing from older children. Kids don’t understand finances and simply feel slighted when they have to wear clothing that another child had first.

Middle children also have issues with the younger child in the family. When a new child comes along the middle child is no longer the baby. This means they may feel as if the new child gets more attention. It also means that the middle child must deal with not being able to get away with as much because they aren’t the littlest one anymore.

At school middle children tend to exhibit either average, middle of the road behavior, typical of someone who may feel as if they don’t exist in their family. Or on the other hand middle children may exhibit outrageous behavior to draw attention to themselves. Many times the class clown or the disruptive child in the classroom is a middle child. They aren’t bad children; they are just making sure that everyone knows they are there.

Middle child syndrome seems to be a catch all phrase for any difference in behavior that is exhibited by a middle child. Whether it be acting out, being shy, or being a little rambunctious. While some children really do suffer agonies (in their minds) of being a middle child, most of what is termed middle child syndrome is simply the child trying to find their own personality in the midst of a family.

Essentially there is no magical cure for middle child syndrome. It is just a matter of growing up. As an adult a middle child can look back and see that they weren’t really ignored or neglected. This is a perspective that no matter how often it is explained, a child won’t grasp until they are older.


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