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Three Kids? - Learn about Middle Child Syndrome


The Science of Middle Child Syndrome: Birth Order and Personality

If you have a middle child, you may be wondering if "middle child syndrome" exists.

The belief that middle children are excluded, ignored, or even outright neglected because of their birth order is known as middle child syndrome. According to folktale, being the middle child can cause certain personality and relationship behaviors in some children.

Is this something real?

Alfred Adler developed a theory on the importance of birth order on personality development in 1964. According to his theory, even if children are born into the same household, their birth order has a massive effect on their mental development.

According to Adler's birth order theory, a child's personality can change based on their birth order. As an example:

  • Because of the high expectations often set by the parents, the oldest child becomes more authoritarian and feels all-powerful.
  • The youngest child is treated like a spoiled brat and will never be able to outperform his or her siblings.
  • The youngest child is treated as a spoiled baby and will never be able to outperform his or her siblings.
  • The middle child would be even but struggles to fit in because he is wedged between his younger and older siblings.
  • The middle child is even-tempered but struggles to fit in because he is sandwiched between the younger and older siblings.

This theory paved the way for a more in-depth investigation of how birth order impacts mental development. However, Adler's theory was only that: a theory and subsequent research have revealed conflicting results regarding the impact of birth order.


In parental relationships, middle children may struggle to feel equal to their siblings. The older sibling usually has more responsibilities, while the younger sibling is well cared for by the parents. The middle child receives less attention than either of the other two.


The middle child regularly feels the need to compete for parental attention with both the younger and older siblings. They may compete for attention among siblings in order to avoid being swept aside by one or both. They may become peacemakers as they find themselves in the middle of everything.


Middle children are not generally viewed as the family's favorite. Favoritism may exist for the oldest child, who is considered special, or for the youngest child, who is considered the baby. The middle child is somewhere in the middle and cannot be the favorite of either parent.

What does Science have to say?

Despite these beliefs about middle child syndrome, the science of birth order is still being researched. Researchers have studied the effects of birth order on a variety of scenarios, including OCD, schizophrenia, depression, autism, and even anorexia. The majority of this research looks into all possible birth orders, including the effects of being a middle child.

One of the most widespread misunderstandings about middle-born children is that they have strained relationships with their parents. According to one 2019 study, middle-born children were the least likely (when compared to first-born or last-born children) to feel confident discussing sex education with their parents.

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An earlier study in 1998 discovered that middle-born children are the least likely to say they are the closest to their mothers. According to the review of studies, middle-borns are also the least likely to say they would turn to their parents in times of crisis.

A more recent investigation

In 2016, investigated the effects of birth order on 320 undergraduate students. The researchers discovered that middle-born children were less likely to be family-oriented than their elder siblings in their review.

They were also more likely to develop dysfunctional self-confidence- confidence, which is characterized by an insatiable desire for things to go exactly as planned.

This study does not necessarily provide a complete picture or even prove that birth order influences personality. In one literature review, the author discovered that middle children are 33 percent more likely to engage in risky behavior than their older siblings.

The author concluded, however, that his study revealed that these results were non-significant, implying that they were simply due to chance rather than birth order.

Another study's authors reveal contradictory findings on the relationship between birth order and depression. According to them, a 2003 study discovered that middle children were more likely to develop depression. However, a 2016 follow-up study discovered that older children are more likely to develop mental illnesses such as depression.

The study went on to say that "later-born" (not necessarily middle-born) children were more likely to attempt suicide and develop psychiatric disorders during adolescence.

It is important to note that the term "middle children" can refer to any child in the family who is not the oldest or youngest. This may differ significantly from a single middle child and may have an impact on development and personality.

Furthermore, some research on birth order in general, such as a 2015 study of over 20,000 people in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany, found that birth order "does not have a lasting effect on broad personality traits" such as extraversion, emotional stability, or agreeableness.

Given this fact, as well as the fact that many studies have produced contradictory results, it is impossible to say whether or not middle child syndrome exists. Many different factors are much more likely to influence someone's development.


The term "middle child syndrome" refers to how being a middle child influences one's personality and outlook on life. Some people believe that middle children are frequently ignored or neglected, which can have long-term consequences.

While some research suggests that birth order has some influence on personality, the findings are contradictory, and more research is needed.

Finally, personality and life results are affected by a combination of social, financial, and familial factors — but not necessarily by birth order.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Charlene Grendon

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