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 the 3rd of 5 and the 2nd of girls. I have always felt this way until I found the love of my life. He has treated me with respect and more or less put me on a pedestal. He gives me the attention that I was lacking at home within the family. Since I have an older brother and older sister it seemed as if they received most of the attention. Then the two younger sisters were are parents favorites because one looked like dad and the other looked like mom and the baby of the family. That is the reason I had only two children. I wanted to give my children something I never received and that is “LOVE”. Love is everything to a child.

  2. I looked up Middle Child Syndrome as it relates to a case I am currently studying for a course and stumbled across all these people who have obviously sought out a place to share there misgivings about being a middle child.
    I am a sixteen year old middle child, with an nineteen year old brother and an eleven year old sister. My experience as a middle child has been somewhat different as my brother has Asperger’s Syndrome. This means among people of our own age my brother appears awkward and uncomfortable; he finds it difficult to communicate and even his gait changes when under the gaze of his peers. Give him a room full of adults or young children, however, and he is fiercely intelligent, witty; completely in his element. when with people our age, i feel i take the leadership role and it is one of the few times when i feel my voice it at it’s loudest.
    When my brother and I were young, as a family, we considerably worse off than we are currently. we didn’t have a car and lived in a small house in a cold climate. when my sister was born she had a lot of health problems, we almost lost her two Christmases in a row, so my parents made the decision to move south on the hope that a milder climate would be better for her. in moving, my mum got a job that improved our income so my sister, who was two when we moved, has never wanted for anything and i think she does take that for granted on occasions.
    This means my role, as the middle child, generally, was more of a supporting one. i have never had health problems, problems at school or problems fitting in. At home or in family situations, i would say that my brother takes the leadership role as he is confident and extremely eloquent; my sister also fills her stereotypical role of the sweet, innocent child. i have a good relationship with each of them and would say i am the one who backs them up; the reassuring one. i have always been a good listener, my parents tell me that as a child i would always spend five minutes watching a situation before joining in and would always talk to a person before i made a judgement about them . this could be conceived to be an introvert personality however i would, of course, say i am mearly thoughtful. Although, even as a baby, i didn’t have an attachment object such as a teddy or blanket; i preferred people. i feel that being the middle child has just made me that bit more independent or mature. i feel absolutely no resentment towards my parents or siblings and after reading all these articles and comments i feel extremely lucky to have the family that i do.

  3. I’m a middle child and this explains my situation in my family exactly, I’m 14 and introverted, actually I’m INTP. My external life sucks except for pot. But my internal mind thrives. I would probably be dead without my thinking personality. I sit at home and self teach myself about physics, astronomy, and astrobiology(and troll on Facebook). From 2-5th grade I was on anti-depresents, I was kicked out of my gifted and talented classes because I wouldn’t communicate enough. Fuck school. I’m extremely intelligent and don’t learn anything in school. I fail all my classes because I don’t do any of the work and Always scored advanced on state standerd tests. I’ve been reading at a high school level since I was in 7th grade.

  4. I am a middle child and have gotten the very short end of the stick. I am now 18, with an older brother and a younger sister. Both of my siblings as well as having the typical traits of oldest and youngest siblings both have more than their fair share of medical problems. Because of this I am the first of the three to go to uni as my older sibling is too sick to finish high school. Yet despite this great achievement my parents do not seem to care. Don’t get me wrong, they do love me, but whenever they discuss uni they just complain about how much I’m costing them. They are sometimes just too busy to notice me while they are focusing on the sick too.

  5. I’m 16… I’m a military kid which is stereotypically bad (correct), I’m the middle child, and the only boy. My dad is either always gone or mad at me. I’ve done everything to stick out and it’s hard as hell. I’ve done my very best and my older sister was always better. I’v done my very worst and achieved nothing. I’v gone through several states of depression, all secret from my family. The one time I mentioned it I was called “dramatic” and never taken seriously. I’v considered suicide many days and still often wonder what it would be like to just have all of this weight off of my shoulders. I have terrible luck as well… I’m constantly losing things, and dissapointing people. DRUGS didn’t help. TRYING hard to stand out didn’t help and only made me feel as if I was being something I wasn’t…. Real friends are about the only thing that ever made me feel better. Someone who you can let yourself out to, who can understand you… thats what helps. I am a JUGGALO and that helped. I joined a group of people who are similar to me in many ways and accept me for who I am. It’s hard to find your hold on the world… but when you do, freaking hold on tight! Because if you let go then theres no telling how far your going to fall.

  6. I’m the 3rd out of 4. My younger sister is 2years younger than me and always got help on her homework when she asked. I am probably the smartest for my age and when I was “stuck” on a question I was told to get “unstuck “. My older sister (2nd) is my mums clear favourite even though she has “no favourite” she always takes her places and buys her things and talks to her (btw she is 18). She isn’t the brightest and has no common sense still my mum adores her. My oldest sibling is my brother who is 19 he is strong and quite smart he is ery spotty and goes to uni. He would probably come 2nd in favourites he always punches me and my sees it but she never really told him to stop it forcefully. All my siblings call me GAY but I’m not, I get a slight bit of attention from my dad. I sing and play the piano but my mum never comes to my recitals. It is just getting to the stage now where I am going to crack and throw a fit and beat the head off someone. It is just sickening and I would like a slight bit of praise for all my achievements and academic success. Even in arguments my mum believes the others ahead of me. Recently I gave a wee sister a taste if her own medicine and shouted as loud as I couldwhen she gave me the finger, for no reason she said she didn’t do it and I was blamed for it because I “must have provoked her” uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Im also a middle child. I have read most of the comments and can relate to almost all of them. Im 30 now and things are not much better that when i was 13.. it just got worse actually. I have 2 older siblings and 2 younger than me. The younger ones are spoilt rotten, the older ones just always think they are so clever and everyone else is so dumb they have no respect or manners-because they are so clever.
    My parents openly say what children they love more (the younger ones and the one older one) and then says we should not take offence its just the way they feel. I always try so hard to impress my parents and to be good but nothing i ever do is good enough.
    Lucky for me i have a wonderful fiance and his family treat me really well, i actually feel like an equal and i exist there (at my house i was just a ghost unless i must do work) .
    I have now started to pull away from my own negative family because i really enjoy being around his family. Now my mom tells me im ugly on the inside and on the outside and how i have changed and im not her daughter anymore and i dont smile?? When i tell her that i am treated bad and unhappy about it and that i always try do my best for everyone she just says i should sort it out myself or with each family member and get over it..My big problem is i work for our family business, so im surrounded by all of them- all day.. and it makes me vey depressed, i am looking for another job cause i feel that it is affecting my mental health staying in this situation.
    Why is it that the children who try their best and never give parents trouble are the ones that get treated the worst, and the kids who are drug addicts, disrespectful, rude and spiteful will be the ones who are loved the most??
    The one thing i have learnt from all of this is that i will never love one child more than the other-when i do have my own kids, i will love and treat them all the same cause i know what it feels like to be the unloved and ignored child.

    1. Reading these comments and this article finally make me realize that I’m not crazy! I have felt completely out of place my entire life. I actually don’t even speak to my “mother” because of the way she had treated me. My younger brother has been treated line a king and I hate him and my mother for it. My aunt and grandmother treated me good, and I’m extremely grateful for that. And I purposely only had one child so that I could never favor one more than the other. That is the worst thing you can do to a child. My daughter is my favorite snag I treat her far better than my mother treated me.

    2. it is so interesting to be in the middle child ,actually when I was growing up some people called me blacksheep, I didn’t mind them because I know deep down in my core that I need to do something in order to recognized me and it works,I got my parents attention and love.Maybe one of the reason why the troublesome in your family has more attention is that they know that you can handle things ,you have a strong quality that others doesn’t have and don’t let anyone take that away from you.And now that you found a fiancee your mom is afraid to loss you and she might say those word is because to upset you.Whatever they say stay focus if you feel unhappy let them know about it and go which you think will improve your life because it’s hard to regret ,do what you have to do but be sure to explain your side with your parents if they don’t listen then be it, just PRAY….I’m wishing you for the best

  8. Ok so my story is typical with minor exceptions, such as my older brother has always been the ‘genius’ and my little brother has always been the ‘baby’ and my parents treated them accordingly. When I was 12 all I did was try to impress them wether it was by grades or just making myself known.. Sadly I never got the attention I deserved and was actually physically harmed a lot more then my siblings and they called it punishment. I also remember a instance where I nudged my younger brother and he lost balance and fell, which he then screamed at the top of his lungs and my father came running down the stairs with a look of hate and rage. He the. Struck me then told me to get on my bed as I was struggling in my tear filled stuper he grabbed my leg and pulled me to the floor and as I screamed in fear he hagan spanking me as hard as he could then he yelled get in the corner.. I still suffer mental scars from this and probably will never get over it. But really I think that parents can be cruel and favorative no matter how much they lie. I hate my parents most of the time I can muster up some love but I count the days til I get out of this house..

  9. I’m 12, my sister is 15 and my brother is 5. I am usually blamed for everything, called a trouble-maker because when I get bored I wind people up. I do tend to find that my parents treat me worse then the others. My sister has more responsibility, more freedom and when she does things in school she gets applauded. I then have expectations to meet, more pressure to do well. My brother is also autistic so her obviously gets even more attention. He also gets spoilt and my parents see him as an innocent angel.

    1. Ugh I’m almost the same way, my parents r divorced, I live with my mom. I am 11, my older sis is 13, and my younger bro is 9. They think my bro a comedian, my sis the wise conservative 1 who takes after my mom. And idk wut I am, the 1 who wears mascara b4 my sis even did. ( sis is VERY against me wearing makeup) I think my mom favors my sis and whenever I c my dad he acts like he favors my bro. I don’t think I’m favored y any1 and it totally sucks. My parents always deny having faves, but I kno they do. I just want 2 b an equal. They look at me as a troublemaker, too.

  10. I am a middle child to an older brother that committed suicide in his early 40’s and a younger sister whom I have cut communication with after her husband slandered my Father after his lengthy battle with colon cancer through social media. I took an interest in the military at a young age and devoted quite a lot of time to it. Still serving after 21 years, I now suffer from borderline personality disorder and clinical depression. I binge drink on occasion and have recently been moved from my home Province and out west away from any shred of a support structure. Not a day passes that I don’t think about suicide myself. No children, no interests, no hobbies, no livliehood. The military doesn’t care. No one really cares… I stopped caring long ago… I would have low self esteem if I had any right now. Things seemingly can’t get any worse… -Glenn 42

    1. Glenn,
      i read ur comment an i understnand u , i am always being told that i am inferior to my siblings and that i am academically and athletically inferior to them,. however ive used this criticism as a driving force, they cannot tell me that i am inferior, i will prove that i am not. I am 16 and i am a national gold medalist in croos country , a award winning entrepreneur and i have received higher in my state examinations than my siblings, however i am still told that i am not as smart or athletic because if my siblings actually tried to set up a business or ran that cross country race they wouldof beat me ? i use their criticism as a reason to work harder and i am a sucessful person. dont let people say u cannot do things. look at yourself u are a strong worthy person. you have been in the liltary for 21 years, not many epole can say that, your an amazign inspiration. care about u and see your strength. I can see your potential, if you get involved in sometyhing as simple as an art class , i find u will meet new people who will see your worth and you will excell , i see the potential 100% , no one ever saw potential in me and look at what i have achieved.
      I care and i berlieve i you that u can be the best and do the best, ever want to talk lukem69@hotmail.co.uk .

  11. I’m the middle child too. One older sister, who is the attention seeker of the family, and one younger brother, who is the spoiled ‘angel’ that can do no wrong. I’m a teenager too, like my siblings, but feel years ahead of them mentally. Being ignored in my family is a given, but has taught me to focus more on my academics. Being blamed for everything in my family has taught me to aspire to live on my own as soon as possible. I always feel alone. I always feel ridiculed. I always feel like I’m just a guest in their house – an unwanted guest at that, and they too are waiting for me to leave. Having said that, reading this and all these comments has made me feel more normal and less resentful towards my parents. Thank you x

    1. OMG!! You have described me! I am now 59, but I STILL feel like the “third wheel” in every situation. I guess it really never goes away! I too, have an older sister, and a younger brother…(who I am close to now) My sister was always the pretty one and the smart one. My brother was the “clown” and the baby. And me?? I was just the middle one. That is how I felt then. It is how I feel now. My dear Mother is still alive, and she has treated me alot lot better since I am now older. But when I was growing up, she never seemed to have time for “me”. She was too busy working, and doing things for my sister and brother. I do not blame my parents anymore, but I still feel alone in a crowd, and I will always be – “the one in the middle.” It has been a pretty lonely life for me. But I now understand ME alot better now. Good luck to ALL the middle ones!!

  12. I was in effect a middle child; My older cousin is 12 yrs senior than me.(he grew up in our house due to his family problems) He is my father’s darling while my younger sibling (a genuine brother) enjoys a special bond with mother. I am much closer emotionally to my mother than my dad but still not as close as my younger brother.

    It has probably helped me in academic field (think independently ans with a bit of intuitive creativity, honestly my mom and dad are academically unappreciative of creative theories,so are my other two brothers).

    Also I have grown up as a classic middle child; low on self esteem, a bit off-track,introverted while other members of family are boisterous and yeah,lonely and sometimes feeling unworthy of love.

    On the plus side; it has taught me academic creativity,honesty and integrity.

  13. I was in effect a middle child; My older cousin is 12 yrs senior than me.(he grew up in our house due to his family problems) He is my father’s darling while my younger sibling (a genuine brother) enjoys a special bond with mother. I am much closer emotionally to my mother than my dad but still not as close as my younger brother.

    It has probably helped me in academic field (think independently ans with a bit of intuitive creativity, honestly my mom and dad are academically unappreciative of creative theories,so are my other two brothers).

    Also I have grown up as a classic midd

  14. I am a REAL middle-child, and I have left my family since I was 14. It is true that I have experienced low-esteem, but don’t GENERALIZE MY LIFE!!! I will prove to ALL that I can be a LEADER, I am currently in Chemistry Honours at McGill University

  15. Wow! How eye opening it is reading all these comments. I am also a middle child – younger bro and sis, and older bro and sis – I’m smack dad in the middle! Growing up, I too felt ignored, blamed, jealous, lonely, with no confidence, shy, the victim etc. I am now 57. I know what I’m talking about – I’ve spent years – decades – in self discovery regarding this very subject. The best advice I can give any middle child is to stand up for yourself! In every injustice – don’t let the false accuser get away with it. Even if you get knocked down and you feel no one believes you – Stand up for yourself for heavens sake! Believe in yourself – this will do more to build and sustain your self confidence later in life than anything else. Don’t yell – don’t be dramatic or cry – just approach the situation and the people involved in a civilized and mature discussion – maybe even after the incident. Even if your parents don’t want to believe you – even if they choose to favor and believe your sublings even when presented with the facts – you must not waiver – you must know who you are and where you fit in. You should think a lot about your future and don’t think it’s just going to happen. Don’t wait for your opportunities but try to make them. YOU are in control. Know your path and take it – don’t wait for it to find you. Seriously – you are in control of your life – don’t let your parents’ treatment of you define you – childhood – which can be a great time – lasts only for a brief moment – very brief in the whole of your life. You have many many years ahead and you don’t want to spend your energies regretting what can be avoided now by simply speaking up for yourself when your family tries to use you for their scapegoat or the fall guy or the butt of their jokes – and they will do it over and over again until they realize you won’t allow it because in their minds they see you as “just” the “middle” child and therefore they feel [you don’t feel this] the you have no real place and therefore no real say so about anything. It is up to you to change that way of thinking. This is a negative behavior trait of both parents and other siblings and, as a side note, you should realize that the older sibling and the younger sibling have their own family complexities to deal with – but you also have to remind them who you are – and don’t let them make their bad behavior your problem. I have many examples of this growing up – but the one thing I regret is that I couldn’t find a way to stand up for myself and either speak up about the truth of the matter – even if you get shot down at least you are speaking the truth – or when your family uses you as a scapegoat and you became the person to blame or the cruel butt of their joke. Be proud of who you are for you are a unique individual and nobody can define you except yourself. If you are proud of yourself, it will show! This will help your parents too – for later in life – when you’re all grown up – they too will have regrets if you’ve allowed them to treat you as a victim or as a scapegoat. Being proud of yourself and not allowing people to mistreat you, will go a long way to creating a stronger family now, but when you have your own family later in life.

  16. I’m the only girl yet still getting shouted at and being blamed for every cause of destruction.My two brothers always beat me up and they don’t get scolded.Sometimes I slap myself or hit my head.I’m kind to everyone but if my brothers make me mad I go crazy,well I kinda have anger management problem something like that but is it even fair to treat me like that.I am what I have all those problems up there.I am just like a servant or just like shadow out of the darkness.Everything I do just comes up to fail.They don’t appreciate me at all.I’m always left out.

    1. Hey. It sucks… It really does. What does help is if you find someone to make some sort of relationship with (friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, cousin) ANYONE… and attach somewhat to them if you guys are alike. Then distance yourself from your family… just as you can be treated bad so easily, you can be forgotten just as easily too. And sometimes being forgotten is the best thing in situations like that. Depression has always either dragged down on me or been chillin just down the road. I’ll never get completely over it, but REAL friends help. Find Someone.

  17. HAaron,when you gave me that advice,
    I used it and thought about others out there just like me.
    I couldn’t like realized about others or people experiencing m.c.s.
    Its just that i was to stressed.
    Your advice was helpful and your cool for it.
    Everyone here means a lot to me.
    You know what you done aaron,if your reading this,
    You changed my life with this advice.
    Mom,she finally respectfully talked to me.
    If any of you deny me for this,i recommend you don’t say anything.
    Im not your average 12 year old girl

    im more independent,all these words come from the heart.
    Thank you all people,i highly respect you all.

  18. I am also a middle child. I have struggled with dissapointments and also have low self esteem. I try to look at each dissapointment as a learning lesson, and try to grow. I try as much as possible to separate myself from my family, i dont want to hurt anymore. I am now 33. I have a family of my own now. My family loves me and i feel like i belong. After any family function or hoilday i always end up crying and all the old feelings come back.My mom, dad, and siblings always find a away to make me feel like the black sheep. I want to cut myparents and siblings off completely. I am so hurt with the things they do and say.

  19. I think MCS is just an excuse for middle children to act afool. My sister is the middle, and I am the youngest. We also have an older sister. We all got the same amount of attention and affection from our mother. From the time we were very young, middle sister never wanted to share. Always had to be in the spotlight. Still complains at age 47 that she always got the short end of the stick in every situation from childhood on (always looking back, never ahead). It was always that we got everything and she got nothing. My older sister got a used car with no trade-in value and one semester at a community college. Middle sister likens this to a new Mercedes and a four-year Ivy League education. I was “the baby”. Not only did the other two get away with EVERYTHING, the tortured me through the growing up years. I was always punished more severely and smothered by our mother. Yet, I don’t have these perceived issues that middle sister has. She never wants to go to family things or help her family, but any of her so-called friends need something…even a stranger on the street…she rushes to their aid. Never does anything out of the kindness of her heart….always looking for that pat on the back she feels she was denied. She is evil, hateful and hurtful. She never apologized once in her life. Sorry, middle children, time to grow up!!

    1. From your story, you just seem to justify the claims that all of these other people have made in other comments. Understanding how hard things can be for middle children is next to impossible to do if you have never lived it. You have proven that the older and younger siblings often seclude and hate the middle child. Also, you’re sister may have turned to acedemics because of the lacking emotional support she received, explaining why she pushed to be more successful.

    2. You need to stfu! You sound like the classic youngest child. This is about being the middle child, and you can’t relate so please keep your comments to yourself!

  20. As I read this.. it makes me cry! Because this is all me.. and I mostly experience it in a age of 12 to 19.. anything I do is not good enough.. I always try to please everyone but end up failing.. always have low self self-esteem :(

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