Middle Child Syndrome

middle child syndrome

What is a Middle Child?

A middle child is someone who is born in between two or more siblings. Being born in the middle, as you’ll soon find out is not that simple. The middle child, unlike the eldest or youngest child, does not get much attention. Middle children are also usually considered outcasts in their families and often develop a condition called Middle Child Syndrome.

What is Middle Child Syndrome?


Middle child syndrome is a condition in which children born in the middle experience feelings of emptiness, inadequacy and jealousy. It is also characterized by low self-esteem and extreme introversion, sometimes even leading to psychotic behavior.

The middle child, unlike the eldest child and the youngest child, is not given much attention. They have to go the extra mile just to get some of it. Middle children tend to be achievers because they need awards to be recognized by their parents. Sadly, this also goes the other way around, they can be very troublesome and determined to get noticed even if it means getting scolded at or punished.

Because they lack emotional support and guidance from their parents, they will always have a sense of low self-esteem. These feelings of emptiness and loneliness make them not very friendly and maybe even weird to other people. Most likely, these negative feelings will also stop them from pursuing what they want.

Other observable traits of middle children are insecurity and jealousy. Being raised in an environment where they have to compete for attention, it’s natural for them to have feelings of insecurity and jealousy of others. Seeing others easily get attention while they continue to strive for attention, these feelings of resentment towards others will continue to build up. All these repressed feelings of being unloved, unwanted or even hated can trigger an extreme case of middle child syndrome where they show psychotic behavior.

Possible Causes of Middle Child Syndrome

After discussing the common traits of people with middle child syndrome, we can find two main causes, identity crisis and lack of emotional support.

Identity crisis is very common to us all, and it’s something that we all experience at some point in our lives. Wanting to be different from everyone else is very normal and there’s not much we can do about it. The other cause is lack of support. Because the eldest and youngest are the common favorites, the middle child is not given any support or attention. This unloved feeling makes them less confident and envious of others, often leading to even more problems such as drug abuse.

Is there a Solution?

Some say that middle children should be given the love and attention that they should have had when they were young, but I believe this will only make them more dependent on their parent’s approval.

There are also cases where middle children tend to separate from their family at a relatively early age to have families of their own. While having a new family means getting another chance, I do not think this is the best solution because escaping the past will not really resolve any childhood issues and these issues may haunt them for the rest of their lives.

The main cause of middle child syndrome is lack of emotional support, which is the responsibility of the parents. So logically, I would have to say that good and responsible parenting is the real and outright solution for middle child syndrome. While this may sound more like prevention rather than treatment, I think that it’s never too late for good and responsible parenting.

But this is just my opinion, what do you think? Comments are very much appreciated.

P.S. I’m a middle child in case you’re wondering. :)

{ 829 comments… read them below or add one }

middle child June 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm

parents do in fact choose favroits i was told by my own mom that my younger brother was her fav. ( i am the middle of three)

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Pakou June 12, 2014 at 12:42 am

As an adult, what can I do to deal with my MCS? It truly gets in the way of my relationship with men. Also, it gets in the way of me prioritizing what’s important in my life. I seek things that are not real or I put up with people who I should dump from my life.

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Gil June 10, 2014 at 10:27 pm

i like this article…and i also think if you’re not a middle child, then you should not speak on the matter. Especially if you’re here to discredit. Not only am i the middle child (2 brothers, 3 years older, 3 years younger) but we were raised by a single mother for the most part. The best part of the oreo cookie is the middle, lets represent. Stop alienating ourselves and change our perspective..its never too late.

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Cierra June 1, 2014 at 12:43 am

I am a middle child of an older sister and a younger brother. Since my sister and I are only a year apart and the same sex, we were treated like twins. We wore the same outfits and treated the same. (for a while, I actually believed we were twins.)But, all the decisions made between us were made by my sister, whatever she wanted, we both got. Thats how it was until my mom met some one else than my real father and remarried. She had a child with my step-father, my younger brother, who is five years younger. When he was born, my sister and I branched away from each other.( but we are still very close.) We wore different outfits but whatever my sister wanted or said applied to me as if it was my desires. I always got her hand-me-downs and I felt left out because my brother was cooed on while my sister was praised for her grades. It doesn’t help that my younger brother is not fond of me and they both brag about their grades. I feel like i never have a say in anything, and to get attention i have to act annoying. Whenever I do get to make my own decisions, my family tease me by saying ” is that your choice or (sister’s name)?”. I have actually find ways to get noticed. I show off all my sketches to my mother, as for my step-dad only cares to show interest in anything when my brother is involved,and speak in Japanese. (I wanted to learn French but my sister constantly speaks it in broken English/French sentences.) But my sister is learning Japanese too, and now getting all that attention again. She also have been making fun of my art, so I haven’t drawn lately. My grades are not the best and my mom keeps comparing me to herself. And I don’t want to be compared to her, I don’t want to be anything like her. She had told me she saw a friend of hers, whom was a middle child, do bad things to get noticed.And that she’s trying to treat us equally, but shes not doing a great job.

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May May 30, 2014 at 8:49 am

I have 3 siblings and I consider myself, the 3rd child, as the middle one. I have an older sister, an older brother and a younger brother. I believe I possess the middle child syndrome even though we are even in number because although my older brother was born second, and only a year before me, he is still considered as a first child along with my older sister. This is because he is male. My sister gets to feel the glory of being the first-born female and my older brother gets to feel the glory of being the first-born male. Obviously, the last child gets to be showered with unconditional, blind love. More so because he is an ADHD child. Apparently, he, in the eyes of my parents, could do no wrong and we are all encouraged, no, EXPECTED to feel the same.

I hate birth order with every fibre of my being. If I said now that suicide has crossed my mind only once or twice (and that should already have been plenty a number for a child to want to die), I would be lying. No longer can I count the times I have wanted to cut my wrists, jump off a building, take my father’s guns and just shoot myself (but that would be quite messy, I thought), and I tell you all I have thought of a hundred different ways to die. But no. I was too smart for that. Too religious. Too knowing that in my faith, one believes to be damned for eternity if one killed oneself. Only those thoughts keep me from my death bed. Not my family, not my friends, nor my dreams, and not even because I was afraid of dying.

As a middle child, I was always the disappointment. Always the one who cried the most because she could never make her parents proud. I remember dreading the end of school ceremonies because I have no achievement to show my parents (I never was good at contests). I was always in the top 5 in class, almost never missed a step, but for some reason, I can never win a medal. Just one, measly medal, was all I ever wanted. They hated certificates. I had a lot of certificates… I wanted to burn them all. I am very smart, that I know, but I am always reminded by them that when they were younger, they were smarter. Wiser. And always I am reminded that I am a failure. Once, I scored 99 out of a hundred. I showed them my test paper thinking that finally, I can show them! But instead, they just frowned and told me, “So you got a 99. If you managed to do that, you should have managed a full score!” I was crushed. That may just be one of the lowest points in my life. I should be okay with all these, really. But I’m not because my sister, older brother, and younger brother get treated with more favor. My older sister is smart, a leader, but she is a demon. At least, acts like one. My parents say to leave her be because she is older and I have to respect her. My older brother is fair enough, but everyone treats him as if he can handle things better. I am only a year younger than him. I am smarter than him. He hasn’t ever been an achiever in class, but he is good at speaking, so he gets a lot of medals. So much praise. My younger brother is just abyssmal. He is stupid. He is lazy. He spends too much time playing games. He talks back, and he is psychologically incapacitated. But everyone’s love for him ranks way above me. (Do I even HAVE a rank?) Once, he got a medal for being best in computer. That award is given almost in random or as a pity award. I got 5 certificates, and I was compared to him. “Why can’t you follow your little brother’s example? Look! He has a gold medal!” I am compared to absolutely everybody my parents can think of. I am compared to themselves, to my siblings, to my classmates, to our relatives, to THEIR siblings, etc etc etc and I absolutely hate it. Whenever I voice something out, I am not taken seriously. I have no opinion that matters. I say something, their minds drift off until I just stop talking. Then my siblings say the exact same thing and they are glorified. I try an take credit for my words and actions, and I come off as conceited. They are such gigantic hypocrites. They scold me and make me feel bad about something, and 5 minutes later they do the exact same thing. No one tells them off, of course. I mean, who would want to pick on them? Noooo. That is wrong. She was born 3 years earlier, he was born a year earlier, he was born 4 years later, that just can’t be right. They are angels, the lot of them.

There are a lot of things wrong with my family. My parents fight. Every. Single. Day. Oh, no, it is not normal. It is not normal when they are always on edge. When objects are thrown around, doors are kicked, threats of separation always, always there. I say I have grown numb to it, but my emotional wound grows each day. We also never communicate with each other. Everyone avoids talking about emotions, but everyone is just so openly brutal about their opinions in one’s faults. I have pent up so much inside, it is eating me alive. I have no one to talk to. I can’t tell my friends because they just have that look in their faces. I have always been good at reading people. That certain look that says, “blah blah blah your needs. How can you complain? You have the good life.” So I never dared tell anyone again. No one understands. I am so, so envious of my friends. I have known them and seen their family cultures, and they still complain even though they are so, indescribably lucky.

I have now grown enough to understand that this should never happen to any child. That my parents are far from perfect. Even far from just ‘good’. They believe themselves to be adequate enough, though. I don’t hate them. I appreciate everything that they have done. I am fed, clothed, sheltered, educated and disciplined. But I am not what I would have wanted myself to grow up into. I am broken, cold, and scared. Scared that I will commit the same mistakes if I were to raise children of my own. Also, I would have held my parents in higher esteem if for once, I felt loved.

This is a real problem people. Don’t turn a blind eye.

Salute to middle children

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