Middle Child Syndrome

middle-child-syndrome

I am a middle child. And yes I can attest to the effects on the personality if you were born second or third among siblings. But not all of these effects are unhealthy. As a matter of fact, research shows that middle children possess characteristics which are uniquely necessary to be successful in life.

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However, there are also real risks for middle children, especially if parents are not well attuned to the dynamics of family interaction. Being a middle child increases the possibility of being second rate in many aspects which may bring about apathy and resentment.

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Looking closely at how we parent our own children, my wife and I admit that the level of attention, energy, and intensity we devote to our second son is lesser in degree compared with the eldest. With our first born, there was a different kind of excitement and exhilaration. My wife had to stop working to focus on parenting him.

middle-child-syndrome

When our second born came, we were more relaxed and confident with our parenting skills. And our general attitude was that he will turn out fine just like the eldest. Of course we gave him everything that he needed. But the level of intimate interaction was lessened and much of the babysitting delegated to the yaya.

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With the coming of the third child, a different level of delight again permeated the family. And all eyes were focused on the new angel. What happened to the second born? He became part of the spectators and awe-gazers and was relegated to the background.

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Comparing my three children, we see the stark difference in their personalities which we partly attribute to the degree of our parenting. The eldest (9 years old now) is an achiever in school and confident in his ways. But he is a little entitled, impulsive, and rough in his manners. He is also a natural leader being the mayor in his class.

The second one (7 years old) is academically average. He learned the basics a little late than his kuya. But he is sweet and emotionally attuned to others. He is quick to say “sorry” and “thank you” and is sensitive to our needs. While he is shy in public, he has no problem making friends and relating with them.

Although we haven’t heard yet from Gabriel (second born) that he feels neglected and unrecognized (we hope we’ll never do), most middle children complains of such. Those who were surveyed reported that they felt abandoned by their parents and that the attention they get are not as much as the eldest or the youngest. But I wish to underscore the fact that the unfortunate experience of less attention from parents for a middle child is also what gives them the character that helps them be flourishing in life.

Far from being doomed to failure and loneliness, research shows that middle children are more likely than their siblings to be successful and enjoy strong social lives and thriving careers. The apparent disadvantages they endure in childhood turn out to be beneficial, in many cases giving them the attributes of empathy, independence, creativity, patience, and being a team player, among others.

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But middle children are also too willing to please others. Perhaps, from their desire to get the attention of their parents, they developed this pattern of being too good and they tend to avoid confrontation, which can mean they are too easily influenced by their friends.

While most first-borns are assertive, dominant, and show leadership qualities, middle children excel in the arena of relationships. Studies show that 80% of middle-borns remain faithful to their partners compared to 65% of first-borns and just 53% of last-borns, perhaps the latter are used to getting their own way, which as we know doesn’t always happen in a serious relationship.

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Whatever the case, this information should alert parents to be mindful of their parenting and effect of birth order on their children’s characteristics. My wife and I recognize these possibilities and so we make a conscious effort to really spend special time with Gabriel through special dates. With this, he would know that he is celebrated as he is and he is one special creature, given special attention just like the rest of his brothers.

P.S. Bohol Child Head Start is still accepting enrolees for Preschool, Grade School, and Special Intervention School. Come and contact us at 416-1248/09295571136 or visit www.boholchild.com.

Kit Balane

Clinical Psychologist
President, Bohol Child Head Start Inc.