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. Well I’m 17 years old and I am a middle child. Most of my dressing involves music like rock. I guess the rock attitude from all decades grew on me and made me become a rebelliois person. I started to learn how to play the guitar when I was in the 7th grade, I’m in the 11th grade now and I have been asking for a guitar for the past five years. By the end of my 7th grade year my school music teacher was not their to teach me to play the instruments to master due to economic school issues. So later on my 8th grade, my sister finished her schooling at a private school and for my garduation present I get nothing but cake and she gets a new car, which she does not even have a license till this day and im here begging for a guitar for a year now. So that Christmas I wanted a guitar but my little brother wanted a xbox 360 which he doesn’t play frequently so I’m there pretending I like the present we got in which its alright. My 14th birthday I ask for a guitar they give me money to go to the mall and get clothes which I had enough of. To this day and to remind you, I am 17 years old and still asking to get a guitar and master it, its like they don’t see any potential in me but they would favor my little brother and see potential in my older sister more. As for my self-esteem its well balanced I’m in high school I talk to many girls have many friends and those who would want to put me down I ignore them so to those middle child’s out there keep your head up because your not alone.

  2. Although I am number four for my parents I do consider myself a middle child. I remembered how tough it was growing up, I had low self esteem and even walked with a hunch. When I had my child at 19 it was because I was looking for love. Over the years I’ve learnt to love myself. I’m 30 now and still have a few middle child syndromes left, I don’t like being left alone, I always feel like I’m being rejected and this drives people away.

  3. Those of you who have said that this doesn’t pertain to you, do you really think you’re comments are necessary?
    Of course there are going to be exceptions with everything, and this is no different. You are lucky, and I am absolutely happy for you I just don’t think everyone else who is struggling to understand why they are who they are, needs to hear this from you.
    Again, I am happy for you. Enjoy

  4. So I took a psych course about a year ago that introduced me to these birth order traits. And I felt like that everything that was said about the middle child had hit the nail directly on the head.
    I’m the middle child.
    ive been reading up on middle child syndrome and whatnot but i’d like to know how I can counteract the things that have left me the way I am today.
    im lonely. different, weird, etc. No one would say this, as im good at hiding myself….but i feel like im “dumbing” myself down to be accepted…
    i was hoping doin some research would help, but now i just feel helpless.
    i just want to be normal….

  5. I pretty much agree with this article. I am 3 years older than my youngest sister who was spoiled rotten, whenever it was my birthday she would have to get a present too, if one of my parents brought home something for her and I, she had to get to pick first or she would scream and cry, and whine plus she was always told how pretty she was. I am 10 years younger than my other sister who is very smart and graduated college and became a teacher. While I am struggling, emotionally and physically my sisters are doing fine. My older sister says mean and cruel things to me, and my younger sister is still a spoiled brat. I would rather be who I am than either one of my sisters.

  6. I’ve never understood the “Middle Child Syndrome” or complex or personality characteristics. I never understood why people would pity me or act condescendingly when I say I’m the second of three. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, but not once in my life have I ever been or felt left out, ignored, alone or empty. I’ve actually always been looked at as the strong, dependable child, and not because my brother, who is 2 years older, is lazy or a “big loser” as the article suggests. There’s never been any competition between any of us; each of us has very different and distinct interests and personalities. My brother was a great athlete and very popular, I was more the quiet intellectual, and my younger sister a combination of both. My mother encouraged all of us equally and still continues to do so. (I am 29, my brother 31 and my sister 20.) It feels like a created problem that people latch onto.

    1. it really depends on how your parents treated you. if your parents didn’t treat you like a middle child, but rather like a child, then you wouldn’t be experiencing any mcs

      please don’t judge what you haven’t experienced

    2. Depends on your family. Why are you on this website?? To brag about how perfect your life is??? Clearly you havent been through it? Why would you comment. You sound like you have the perfect parents. My dad verbaly abused me my whole life. He blmed me for everything and loved my two older sisters and little brother. He then died of cancer. Im actually glad he died because i wouldnt be the person i am today. Im married to a wonderful man and just had the most perfect baby girl. I guess karma is a b$tcH. I now suffer from anxiety and am self concious of myself but my hubby helps me through this :)

    3. I think so too that it all depends on the parents. I had no problem with my siblings, but in my mom’s eyes I was invisible. Seem other people got bullied by their siblings and parents did noting. So it really depends on the parents.

  7. Couldnt agree more. I am the middle child and hates it day after day. But like you said, one have to work on these things :)

  8. I google searched middle child because of a joke I recently heard about middle children. Reading this article as well as these responses was definitely helpful in explaining who I am to myself. Looking back on it, I took for granted many of the things that come along with being a middle child and often ignored them. I am definitely an introvert and I continuously doubt myself. I really believe I experience ‘depression’ yet I have never told anyone. It comes and goes, but I have found that the more I focus on other things like classes and sports (things I understand and enjoy), the less I think about my shortcomings and at times I can get rid of my depression for long periods of time by doing this.
    The one thing that has bothered me about some of these posts is the theme of blaming your parents and siblings for your ‘middle child syndrome’. If it exists, I have it, but I could never blame my family for it. I would never separate from my family either, I think that’s a weak way to deal with it. If you are who you want to be, they will respect and love you.
    I think the more we blame others, the less we will be successful in what we want to achieve. Find those who will encourage you, and use their support in ways that will boost your confidence. I have at times thought that the only thing holding me back from succeeding in everything I want to, is my lack of confidence. In order to succeed and be happy, I have found that you must find reasons to confident, and that is something that is possible for everyone.
    Make good decisions, and stay humble.

    1. 1.success and happiness are 2different things. I am a successful doctor with a beautiful family, but not happy and under treatment for depression because I was practically invisible in my mom’s eyes when I was growing up.
      No matter how good of the decision a made, I never ever forget that my mom never noticed. When I became a doctor , learned 3 languages, was the only one in the family with a happy and stabe marriage and beautiful kids, my mom never ever said once, good job.
      Since my mom moved closer to me because she fell in love with my kids, my life turned dark and I entered in to a deep depression.
      I please do not judge all the people on this page and all the middle kids that suffered base on your good experience.

  9. Interesting. I never heard about the term “Middle Child Syndrom” until just now, but I must say, almost everything you guys list (and more), I have experienced as well.
    [I had “my big list of grievances” here, but I deleted it, I found it petty when re-reading it]
    I feel ridiculous writing this stuff down, because I have always hated myself for noticing these things. But I guess, if MCS is a thing, I can understand myself and accept this trait about me, maybe even learn to get rid of it.

    thank you very much for this page!

  10. i think its almost true…
    im the eldest in the family and i always felt that my sister(middle child) has some sort of jealousy over me. i think she feels that she should be better at something that im not good at.
    i think my sister is pretty and has the potential to actually be better than me. i just feel like if i inspire her she wouldnt feel like im above her and that were sisters thus equals.
    instead of being inspired she began to think that shes no match to me.
    we butt heads from time to time and as the eldest i usually bent my anger on something else.
    i jst hope shell know the potentials that she has and stop being such a bitch sometimes…

  11. I actually agree with this for the most part! I have an older sibling and two younger siblings, but I have all of the traits you mentioned. Some to the extreme! I love my parents but they definitely gave my siblings way more attention.

    IDENTITY CRISIS! So sick of it haha

  12. I’m 13 and a middle child today I was alone in my bedroom crying because my dad and older sistervwas makeing fun of me I redress my mum on how I felt and because I’m a girl and a teen. She said it was hallmones but I have every thing this webpage says i feel in loved by my hole family my nan goes on about when my 15 yr old sis was little and my grandad used to talk to me now I bearly get a hi cuz of my yonger 6 yr old little sis and my older sis is a daddys girls and my little sis is a mummys girl so I now have no one so if u have a middle child please treat them as they r a big or little one

  13. My husband and sister are middle children. I would like more info on the middle child.

    I am first child do you have info for me?

    Thank you,

    Betty Jane Fairchild

  14. This is blasphemy in terms of social resultants, and ridiculous at a functional level.

    More importantly, it is utterly sad how people use it as a scapegoat in order to provide themselves with excuses for their situation and insane thought processes. You either achieve what you want, or you don’t. Simple as that. It’s not your older and younger siblings fault, and shame on you for blaming them for your own lack of effort. Absolutely ridiculous. It’s no wonder the American society is so malformed and self diluted. We believe in crap like this.

    1. @Jake:

      This article is NOT blaming older or younger siblings.

      This article is only bringing to light an absolute truth that, like the middle child, is often overlooked.

      I say this from experience.

      In my situation, I am the youngest of three to my parents…they got divorced and I lived with my father…by the time I was 4 he had remarried and began having more children…I was then considered the middle child and I became almost invisible.

      For example, I went to my 8th grade graduation by myself because my father and his new wife attended my youngest siblings Kindergarten graduation.

      It was not so much that I was envious of my youngest sister, but that I began to feel that my “being” was not significant to my family.

      To this day, I am the only sibling who left home—to another state—and never returned…not even for my father’s funeral.

      Childish? Possibly.

      But another way to look at it is to remind myself that my emotional needs were often overlooked by parents I wanted so much to please.

      To avoid the pain of being ignored, I subconsiously became emotionally disconnected.

      And unfortunately, this “emotional disconnect” has also affected my future relationships.

      I really enjoyed this article. It gives me a starting point to “grow-up” and become connected again.

  15. Im a middle child also .Im 27 years old and i hate being the middle child!! .I feel unloved all the time ,Feel the need to try and get my mother And Fathers approval for everything (wich never happens) My eldest brother is a teacher .I work in a supermarket,And my bitch sister is a lazy slob who breeds children for a living!! Yet She gets all the support from my mother .And i get none :S .My mother never wants to spend time with my children .Yet spends alot of time with my sisters children .Its Just dam right hurtfull!!! And to be honest with you all .No matter how much talking you do with your parents to try and get a little bit fairness for yourselfs .I dont think you`ll ever ever get it !! .Theres only realy one solution for a middle child i feel… Cut your family out of your life .Don`t let them know that your doing it .Do it gradually .By doing things like ignoring txt phone calls not going to parents as often avoiding family ocasions etc … That way your not seting your self up for rejection and making you self feel shity about your self !!! .And lowing your self esteem .Well thats what im trying to do at the momment anyways i`ll let ya all know how it turns out P.S keep your chin up :) xx

    1. I’m a middle child. The middle of three boys. I had a hard time
      finding my identity growing up. One day I looked at it this way.
      I can be both the older, and younger brother at the same time.
      Think about it your older brother will never know what it feels
      like to be a younger brother. Your younger brother will never
      know what it feels like to be an older brother. As a middle
      child you can be both.

  16. A lot of the middle child personality traits apply to me. I always tended to be the opposite of my older brother, was something of a loner and then would also sometimes do things just to get attention. I have the instincts of a peacemaker.
    Despite being the middle child, my brother and father used to complain I was my mother’s favorite. Actually, she set higher standards for me than she did for my older brother or younger sister. My older brother could fight them more and my sister was spoiled and not expected to toe the line very much.

  17. I believe a the severity of this issue is the years apart of each sibling. I am a middle child and my older brother was only 2 years older so we did everything together. My parents put us on the same sports teams when we were growing up and had the same group of friends. Growing up I was always doing something with him so when we were in high school and he had his own group of friends I struggled to maintain my own circle of friends. It hurt my grades in school but got better in college when he wasn’t living at home anymore. Even now we both had to move back home and we have the same friends, he is the one that gets contacted whenever our friends plan something. It just seems that whenever he is around I feel almost useless. Now I keep to myself by playing golf (scratch golfer…hard work), reading, and playing video games. I go to school, I work, I’m lucky to have one day off during the week and he calls me lazy. I even had plans to go to a golf management school but didn’t go because when I told my brother about it he dropped out of college to go to the same school. I’m 25 years old and it finally feels like I’m doing my own thing. It may not be much but it’s a start.

  18. I was the oldest of three kids. I was treated as a middle child which is odd I know. I was never into sports because the only sport I love was when I was on the swim team but we moved and they did not have a swim team. As a child I constantly remember doing everything by myself. Whether it be playing or sleeping in my own bed etc. My little sister could do no wrong as a child and was spoiled but I will say it caught up to my mom when she became a teenager. I never felt love as a child but did get it when I met my husband. We now have a son and I make it a point to make sure he gets more than enough love.

  19. Could agree more. being a middle child sucks, the most subtle double standards you have to face 24/7 couldnt be more annoying.

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