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. :)

Feel free to join the discussion. We’d love to hear from you!

888 thoughts on “Middle Child Syndrome

  1. I am 25 and I have always had low self esteem. I never knew why though. I am not writing this to make people feel bad for me, I know there are people in much worse situations than me. I always felt like I was left out. In high school I got into drugs and when my parents found out they kicked me out and didn’t care if I was to sleep in a ditch. I begged for help but they never helped. My older sister was on the honor roll and in college made the dean’s list many times. My younger sister was always babied even to this day at 21. In my late teens/early twenties I was often verbally abused. My parents would call me a loser and a failure. At 25 I still feel left out and empty. My low self esteem gets worse every year. I don’t want to feel this way anymore.

  2. Good parenting could be the answer but it will not fix my families problem. Mostly because my parents don’t know how to parent us so there is no solution to my issue with my sister. I had no clue that this even exists but it fits perfectly with my middle sister. Too bad its too late to fix it and even if there was still time my parents wouldn’t have a clue on how to fix it because of there poor parenting skills.

  3. I am 13 years old I have an older sister who is 16 yrs old and a little sister who is 2yrs old I try every day to get noticed when it come to the family I’m so rude and disrepesctfull and a mistake the only not who pays attention to me is my dad and I don’t even live with him my mom didn’t care that I have amazing grades play well in athletics or the fact that I almost fractured my wrist someone help me plz

  4. I thank you for this, I often felt the pain and loneliness even at the present age of 52. I am a middle child of nine children. There was no attention left for myself, Dad worked all the time and Mom did the best she could, I realize this now but back as a child you don’t think of that. I was always in trouble one way or another. It didn’t matter to me if a spanking came with it.
    I noticed that I always had to share everything with all the siblings, Even when I worked hard for it. It seamed as though they never had to share what they had, I was often told to leave their stuff alone.
    I’m not complaining about my life, at least Mom didn’t give me up to adoption, or even worse abortion. Your article really drove home some good points. Also brought on some bad memories and visions I have locked away for a very long time.

    But now I’m a born again Christian, I belong to a new family and my Father has no favorites. We are all loved the same no matter what mistakes we make. Again I thank you and God bless you and all the others with MCS, but their is a silver lining. Be the better person and don’t let MCS rule your life. It will only drag you around by the collet for the rest of your life. Stand up, shake the dust off, and live your life like there is no tomorrow. The best medicine you can treat yourself with is LOVE, love yourself and don’t let this syndrome rule you.

  5. I am recently the middle child to two other sisters with the youngest being 3 days old she is getting lots of attention and with the eldest being 18 she is getting lots of support with jobs and cars so I feel left out and sometimes stress out and the only way for me to vent is to break down and cry and go to YouTube but this makes me feel cut out from my family is there any suggestions anyone could give to try and sort this

  6. Oh My god my life right there in writing!!!
    I am a 12 year old girl nearly 13. with a 14 year old older sister and a 7 year old brother we always fight constantly and my mum always tells me off, always sends me to my room, always yells at me and I am GOOD at school I don’t hardly ever get a detention but my sister gets all the attention because she Is BAD but when I get a detention my mum always goes on about it for weeks its so annoying. My mum always focuses on the bad side of me and the negativity not the positive I get sooo down all the time

  7. MCS is real. I am the second child and brother of 3, with an older brother and a younger sister. My older brother is totally seen as the pioneer and the most worthy child; my younger sister gets it her way far too often; and then there is me. I relate to this article so much. I have psychopathic tendencies, and do often consider becoming a criminal mastermind in order to be noticed and noteworthy. I am lonely, and I realize that I probably come off as weird. I am an introvert but still have far too small of a friend-circle. I’m not insecure nor do I have low self-esteem, or at least that’s what I tell myself. I find myself confused about who I am, not knowing how to express my interests and personality into a definable character– I often come off as erratic, weird, or over-enthusiastic about some things.

  8. I am now 37 years old and I suffered for a long time with MCS. My older brother was the apple of my mothers eye and still is, my younger brother is the apple of my fathers eye (they are very alike in personality).

    When I was young I noticed that although I was loved and cared for very well that I was often side lined by my parents in favour of my siblings. I was very quiet around others often analysing and watching, I believe it stilted my development in some way and a sense of low self esteem was there.

    When I became a teenager, I had a group of friends who were to me my family, I went out when I could. With them I could be myself and realised how social I really was and I organised everything we did (mostly involving alcohol – Being Scottish does that to you!). They gave me my confidence and the 5 of us are still as tight as ever.

    Over the years, I have broached this subject with my parents and they are very dismissive of it, that’s fine Iv made my peace with MCS. I have children of my own and have learned from mistakes I felt my own parents made.

    I have gone on to have a career in adoption. Helping others to have a family – perhaps without my childhood feelings I may not have chosen this career – who knows.

  9. also a middle child. five of us. my mom finally admitted a few years back that yes, I was ignored. I was picked on by my older brother and sister and never defended. just told to shut up. she always took their word for things. yelled at
    me for everything they told her I did “wrong”. the way I talked, dressed, walked.
    if my brother wrecked something of mine and I cried, my mom told me to go away. if I tried to talk to her about my day she never answered. my dad hated us all pretty much equally.

  10. i was the oldest of six children and also had 7 children what i was told and found was that for parents to survive the workload they were always having to tend to the oldest who was off and running and to the baby who was always crying-then when managed i would tend to the middle . i had no preference of one child or sib just did my best to balance the workload. loved them all to pieces. in later years the middle child needed more attention so i gave them tons of one on one timeto catch them up. i also found taking children on a two dollar private date helped alot. they could vent or let me know their needs. also in january i would ask them if they had three wishes that could come true what would they be. they dug deep and it let me know of unmet needs that i worked quickly to meet . good luck

  11. I always knew about this MCS since I was 8. I’m also a middle child just like many of you. But for me, it was not mostly my parents (just sometimes) it’s my siblings.

    I have a year older sister named Vanessa, and a younger brother named John (btw, our age gap is 8 years) When I was a child, and John wasn’t born yet, my sister and I always fight. Over small things, big things and such, just the way siblings do. And because I was younger, my mom favors me.

    I guess I was just adapted to my mother favoring me over anyone else, that when my younger brother came along, I became sad and lonely. We always fight, sometimes even physically. Since he was a boy, even though I’m older, he walks away with victory. (I was tall but lanky)

    As to my sister, we share rooms. There was this issue, which only we know of. We were kids that time but we were old enough to know that we will never win an argument with our mom. John had a separate room, and we were infuriated because why can’t we have our own room too?

    Vanessa and I quarrel as often too. She insults me, I insult her back, and so on until one of us will just stop and remain quiet. I know she has been crying every night, as I do too. I really love my sister even though she treats me as a big fat douchebag.

    One day, I saw a pink notebook on my bed. It was not mine, so I opened it. It was Vanessa’s diary. One of her entries said, “Since I’m oldest, I was the first one to experience being left out, every time a new part of the family adds. I was the first one to be neglected. But i can’t tell anyone how I feel, because I’m the brave Vanessa everyone knows. And I can’t do anything about it but cry inside and pretend to feel nothing.”

    I cried that day. You know why? Because that’s what I feel to. I never admitted to having read her diary. She needed to know that someone loves her, that I do. But I’m just a kid, and I’m a coward. I was not courageous enough to tell her that I will always be on her side.

    My father was not in our country, he was working abroad. But sometimes I just can’t helpit getting mad at him. How can he leave us? We could’ve got the love we were always seeking for.

    My mom used to brag about my achievements to her friends. But that was just a cover up, because as soon as we get home, she would say, “Don’t make me disappointed. Go and study in your room. NOW.”

    When me and my siblings study, she goes on checking on my brother often, and sometimes, looking at my sister’s work. But she never even went to my workplace or ask if I need help. One day, I asked her about my homework. Did you know what she said? “There’s google. You can do it on your own.” That was just depressing. Can’t she spend a little of her time to even think of how I can pull through without her help?

    Sometimes, I think about suicide. And I tried. I drank alcohol (the one to clean wounds) before I slept. I was ready to sleep and never wake up. But I woke up perfectly fine. No one knew of that.

    As a kid, I’ve never even experienced to play outside, to meet neighbors and things like that. I was even scared to make friends. I had friends in elementary. They were so exciting and makes me happy. One day, I saw a 9gag picture. “There is always one friend who goes at the back when the space is not enough and is always interrupted when talking, bla bla bla.” It hit me like a potato. I switched schools in high school. And I was the wallflower, not talking to anybody at the first week. I was careful of choosing my friends since then.

    The sad thing about my life is that I don’t know where my place is, because I know that I don’t even belong. I’m too young to go with my sister and her friends, and definitely too old to hang out with my brother. And so, I was always alone. As I am typing this comment, I realized I am still alone. And still sad.

    I hate MCS. It made my childhood not worth of looking back to.

  12. I’m almost sorry I read this article because it opened a very big wound.

    I’m a middle son of three boys. My mother favoured my older brother quite openly but it wasn’t too bad because I know she loved me.

    My father was a different matter. I felt he hated me and worshiped my younger brother. When I was quite young my brother and I were play fighting. He grabbed my head and mashed my temple into the corner of a coffee table. I was really hurt but my father cheered boisterously at my siblings victory. My younger brother and I scrapped a lot. Once, continuing after being told to stop, my father punched me in the face. We were both guilty of the same offence but of course I was the only one to receive the blow.

    It was not uncommon for me to get punished when my brother was delinquent. A day didn’t go by that I wasn’t called stupid, a thief or a liar. Conversely, in my whole life I don’t recall one pejorative word directed at my brother.

    This behaviour continued to adulthood. My father even favoured my brother’s kids over mine.

    The repercussions as a kid was that I acted out. I went to great lengths to get attention and it was mostly negative. I took more risks than anyone else. I jumped higher, drove faster, consumed more.

    As an adult I engaged in unhealthy behaviour. I had a propensity to use women, substances and bad habits to escape pain. I subconsciously told my self I wasn’t worthy of love or success.

    After years of soul searching, therapy, mediation and hard work I can say that I’m no longer obsessed with my father’s hate. This is the first year that I don’t spend several hours a day resenting my father for his misguided behaviour. I’m 57.

  13. Exactly and explicitly honest.

    Middle child here. My mother jumps when my sisters need something. But when I need help I have to wait. My grandmother (her mom) treated all the grandkids fairly. My “mother” always pulls the I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it liner. But boasts to her friends she is so proud of me. I don’t believe it. My family forgets about me and sometimes blames me for everything bad that happens.

  14. Hi! OMG…will you PLEASE stop telling my life story lol… jk I am a middle child and had always wondered why I felt the way I do… i had never heard of MCS before today, so thank you for sharing! I am the middle child of 7 (3 older sisters, 2 younger brothers, and a younger sister) and being that we had such a large family, I not only was the last thought about, but I even put myself last on many occasions just so that it “wouldn’t hurt as bad”. And on top of being in the middle, I am small framed (I am 32 and only 5 feet tall lol) and relatively quiet, which made “running over me” even easier. I’ve healed from a lot of the things that I felt in my youth, but there is such a wide array of emotions, that you never know when the harder to deal with will be triggered. It is just really good to know now that I am not alone :) Something amazing happened when I read so many of the comments above… there was a release, and for that I am thankful! So, SALUTE to all the mid-kids!!! YOU ROCK!!!

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