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’ve heard of middle child syndrome but only just decided to look up facts about it. On the whole I have to agree that as being a middle child this is what has happened to me! I wouldn’t say I have psychotic moments though, although I have been known to get angry and throw a remote across the room with all the family laughing at me! I’ve always been laughed at. I recall my brother hitting me and I got told off! Typical!! Mum brought in a child pyshologist to see me and I had no idea why, I wasn’t a problem child, I was angel in fact! If ever I wanted to borrow anything there would always be a reason why I couldn’t particularly if it was something that had been given to mum by my brother or sisters, yet often my siblings end up with stuff I have given my mum and they get to keep stuff!

  2. Wow, We all should start a support group. But I’d like to add, This happens in families with more than 3 children as well. I was the youngest girl, but had a younger brother and a sister one year older. There were older children but I got placed in that middle role, as part of the younger three. It sucked. But what’s worst is the treatment you receive becomes so normal to your siblings that they don’t even notice as adults that they continue to hold thier roles and hold you to yours. No matter how hard I tried as well, it seemed that nothing was good enough and I was made to feel that I had the problem, I was told that I was jealous, I didn’t like nice things and I had the behavior problem. They referred to me as “the mean one” Even though me the child didn’t even know what half of that stuff meant. But to the young and old on this site. Stay strong, because if the child you were got you this far..you owe it to that child to finish the game… BE BRAVE AND BLESSED TO EVERYONE ON HERE….and yes it really is this serious.

  3. I am the mother of three young children- my second born child is struggling with his own identity. I have been reading and researching about “middle child syndrome” to be able to help him. I’ve found this site both informative and offensive. His father and I make a constant effort to reward him for his accomplishments, spend quality one on one time, and allow him to have his own time doing his own things, without his brother or sister. His case is not lack of parental support (which this whole article seems to center around as the sole “cause”). My feeling is that this condition is purely an identity struggle. I’ve been searching to find support on how to parent a child through this struggle. This site…not helpful.

    1. u see thats what is wrong with parents they can o that but they still have the siblings what r u doing about that and having no one to talk to about it and u still dont get it

  4. I think that is the reason why I rarely talk to my mom because she seems to always have negative things to say or to argue with. I’m so sick of this middle child syndrome.
    Based on my whole life experience, I think I may conclude that middle child syndrome is all about feeling of most hated, ignored, unloved, neglected, and least appreciated.

    1. it seems like most middle children have problems with there mothers thats the problem with me it like being sufficated i mean your already between the siblings just to have your mother squish u more into the sandwich that is the middle child

  5. Hi, my name is Ressa (24 yo). What you stated in this article is so real. I used to think that there was no such thing as middle child syndrome, but I just Googled it and found that it is so very real. I thought it was just me feeling unloved and less appreciated because of my behavior in which I tend to be showing off to get a compliment or two. As a matter of fact, even though I technically got a lot better achievements than my siblings did, my mom never shows her proudness. Unlike my siblings, I studied in favorited schools, got great GPA, and other achievements but I always think that I have to go the extra miles to get praised by my mom. My mom never gives me a compliment neither in front of me nor in front of other people. I just have no idea why my mom likes to blow up my negativity in front of other people instead of showing off what I’ve got. This really sucks. As a result, aside from all of these talents God has granted to me, I always feel less confident in my whole life.
    Another thing that always makes me feel left out is that I never got a chance to have some quality convos with my mom while she would spend hours talking with my older or younger sister. I remember feeling neglected when I tried to tell my mom about some barriers in completing my final paper. I cried when I told her the thing. She just casually smoked her ciggy, didn’t give me supporting response. After that, my older sist walked in the room, and finally they all left me weeping. That really hurts

  6. As the middle child I always felt that my parents showed favortism to my siblings. My mom is obsessed with my older sister and my dad is the exact same way with my little brother. Growing up I always felt that I had to outshine my siblings to get noticed and the majority of the time my parents still paid little attention. My parents were very strict on me and my punishments were always harsh in comparison to that of my siblings. My parents brought all 3 of us cars when we turned 16 and not surprisingly I was the only one that had to pay my own car insurance and come up with my own gas money. When I look back on my youth I feel that I had every reason to become jealous, angry and even bitter towards my brother and sister and I know there were times when I felt so lonely and depressed. As I got older I was determined to make my parents notice me and I pushed myself to be the best in everything I did. I am now 26 and besides for having won and/or placed in the top 3 in over 15 pageants, I was the first high school graduate in my family and the only child to not have an arrest record, I am also the first and only person in my family with a degree. I realized early on that my parents were never going to give me the guidance and attention that I needed and I have always used that as the catalyst to push myself. I definitely feel like all the years of favortism have taken a toll on the type of relationship I have with my siblings and unfortuntately were not close at all. Luckily for me I have amazing friends that have always been there for me. I absolutely believe in middle child syndrome but I also think it effects different people in different ways. Where some people become depressed, introverted, or have low self esteem I believe that it does something completely different to other people. It makes you focus on what you want, pushes you to become the extroverted go getter, and makes you more confident in yourself as a person.

  7. hi,
    my heart is heavy and my eyes are full with tears while writing this down. before today i didnt know that there is something like this. i thought i am an evil person to think all this about my family. i know they all love me but not as much as they love my elder sister or my younger brother. i am 21 and i still cant cope up with this feeling. i feel so empty and alone. there are times when i just want to run away. i try to find that warmth in my friends but every time i get back to home i feel that hollowness again. i dont know what to do. wish someone could just help and love me for what i am. and for once i dont have to prove my self to have my parents attention.

    1. Damn I just heard about this today!
      I totally feel you. Im 20. It makes sense, and it sucks.. I know that feeling.

    2. Shruti,
      Many hugs for you!! It seems that the farther you push yourself away from your family, the deeper the heartache is inside of you. Maybe that is because you must reconcile your feelings about your family. Next time you visit them, have a good talk with yourself before you go about what a fabulous person you have turned out to be. Don’t measure how much you are loved by what love (or lack of love) comes from your family. Chances are, they are not capable of loving in a way that you yearn to have. You are so lovable right now JUST AS YOU ARE!!! You don’t have to do anything. But, you could help change the entire dynamics in your family by being the bravest of them all and showing them how much you love them — even though they have hurt you deeply. That starts by forgiving them.

  8. I’m 14 and hate my family. My mom was an eldest child and my dad was the youngest child, so obviously who are their favorites? When it comes to jobs or work or anything, like doing the dishes, sweeping all that kind of stuff it all falls on me. I guess in their minds my 12 year old brother is too young and my older brother (17) is too busy working for school (he just plays on his computer and pretends to be working) so they just take me. EVERY TIME. I get much better results in school than my bother did when he was my age, and my parents(who keep records on marks) don’t care, but if I get a mark that is bad/ average they go crazy saying I don’t study enough and I just mess around all the time.

    I’ve tried talking to my parents about it but they just laugh. I said that I have middle child syndrome and they laughed even more saying that if I have that then my brothers have eldest child syndrome and youngest child syndrome. It makes me sick. I just want to get out of the house ASAP go live somewhere far away and never make contact with them.

    To add to all this my brothers gang up on me all the time, even though he can be a jerk I usually help my little brother in mornings before school, like waiting for him before going to the bus stop, which usually means we miss it and have to walk, but the second that I’m taking longer than him he doesn’t give a crap and runs to the bus. Him and my older brother have this game of calling me ‘asshole’ or other insults in front of my parents and seeing how long it takes for them to tell them to stop. In a car trip this game has gone on for 40 minutes. and they only stopped because we were taking a pit stop. Is anyone else in a similar situation and found a way to deal with it? If so I would like to know how.

    1. i have the exact same thing at my house. my younger brother (11) gets all the attention and my older sister (17) is the favorite. my parents dont pay attention to me like my brother and sister. My parents dont really care either.

  9. I am a middle child in my 60’s and it took me years to realize why I wasn’t part of my sister’s lives. As soon as I heard the term “Middle child syndrome” it was like a shinning light. I thought it was all in my mind. I was never included in their lives, and now never want too. They have totally used, ignored and emotionally abused me to the extreme since I was born. On reflection a lot of my life decisions were made because I was a middle child.
    1. Never to have 3 children
    2. Move to another state
    3. When my parents die, never make contact with them
    To name but a few
    My (2) children have seen their nastiness rear their ugly heads on many occasions. My daughter once asked my oldest sister “Why do you treat my mother so badly. and don’t you realize how much you have hurt her”. Reply “Yes, but we always have and why should we change now!” They evidently had a good laugh. And my daughter left telling them they were evil!

    1. Wow….sounds like a lot more than “middle child syndrome” to me! But way to take the easy excuse!

  10. hi im the 3rd of 5 its true what u say about this middle child feeling i feel it every day. my parents say they dont have favorites but who can believe that when they are taking me out of the private high school so my eldest sisyer and go to college. not my other older sister who also goes there not my 2 little siblings who go to a private middle school no JUST ME!!! but i have chosen to move past this. my plan is the graduate college and move out asap!! then i will make a better life for my self. i cannot wait for that graduation day!!!!!!!!!

  11. I have an older brother, and a younger sister. I grew up around my family instead of with them. I went into playing computer games, and listening to Rock music growing up, and never felt like i was a proper human being. When i was 18 i had a bad bike accident, and all of a sudden the attention turned on me. When i was out of the hospital i was on my own again. Just over a year later i hit the side of a lorry on my bike, and i had time while laying in hospital healing to think about life, infact that’s all i tend to do. These days my sister says i have middle child syndrome, and my brother just looks at my money. My parents tend to talk to my life, or my motor functions.
    I was the second boy 28/09/1970
    My parents couldn’t see me, only my brother and sister.

  12. I am the middle of three girls. I am so glad I found this website. I feel so at home when I read these comments from these wonderful people.
    My older sister is two years older and my younger sister is five years younger. My parents always favored my sisters more than I. Don’t get me wrong, they love me and I know that, but my sisters would always get more of the attention, always. My older sister was favored, obviously, by being the eldest, and all of her accomplishments were adored. While when I had my accomplishments, they treated it as, “oh I’ve seen that before.” I had to be just as good as my sister, if not better, to even be recognized. I thought my younger sister would be treated the same as I was when it came to her accomplishments, but they gave her even more attention… I just didn’t understand. It was especially harder for me because in my older sister’s high school years, she didn’t do anything. No partys, sleepovers, no job, drivers license, no boyfriend. Not because she was told not to, but because she never cared for any of it, she’s the most indifferent person I know. So for me to get anything, I would have to first deal with, “she didn’t need it when she was your age, why should you get it?” I would get in big arguments with my parents for things that would come so naturally to other teenagers, eventually the only way I could get what I wanted was if I did everything myself. So I did. My older sister then became the “good one.” Later when my younger sister became a teenager, she began wanting the things that I wanted, and she got them. My parents were just okay with it. I fought the battles and earned the “bad child” title while my younger sister reaped the benefits and had things handed to her. I am now 19 and in college, with a job, paying my own way through school, with the support of a very loving boyfriend. I had to work twice as hard to gain the same recognition my sisters would get for doing almost nothing.
    I’ve accepted this for a long time now, and learned how to be self-reliant. There are many times where I would like to drown in my self-pity, but I’ve learned to take care of myself, and the only real love that I know, is the love I have for me.
    Middle children of the world, I feel for you. Please remember, that you are worth so much, no matter how low your family makes you feel. You do deserve better. Give yourself what you need, take care of yourself and love yourself.

  13. “Main cause of middle child syndrome is lack of emotional support, which is the responsibility of the parents. ” As a middle child, i can say this is 100% true. I could easily write a 10page paper with endless examples.

  14. Hi! I am the 2nd of 3 siblings and I must say being the middle child is really a pain in you know where when you’re a kid. The good part is that I have outgrown the jealousy and insecurities. We have different views on how we are treated at home. My older brother feels like he is not loved equally by both our parents, my younger brother feels superior because he is favored most of the time and spoiled by everybody. I, on the other hand grew up knowing how to balance things around me. I am the only one who finished college and earned a degree in Psychology. I pushed myself to strive harder since i know I am the only one i can depend on and seeing how my siblings are, i couldnt imagine living the same life as they do.

    I havent read most of the comments here but i think it still boils down to our individual differences. Parents, try as they may to become the best in everything still fails to meet our own expectations. We have the opportunity to become who ever we want to be, our lives isnt destined to be miserable so it is up to us to make the difference. I hate to think that being the middle child leads to a bad life IF the parents mishandled our childhood. i cant blame them for how things have been. i could only be grateful for all the good stuff.

    I grew up being matured and independent, i have a lot of friends, im outgoing, i am usually the one being consulted for a lot of things at home, i am the most requested chaperon for anyone traveling even just going to the supermarket. I think i am the happiest middle child there is, no pun intended.

  15. I’m the middle child of group 2. The first group was my oldest sister who was a only child at first for around 10 years. My brother was the oldest boy and he was the most deprentaded opon.. My sister who not sure because I have only seen her 1 time. My other brother who was the spolied one!

    The next group when my mom married my dad was my sister Traci was a spoiled brat. They are paying her medical school bills. Though I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even attend. Then theres me I get introuble for the stuff they do and the toys they break or steal I either have to pay for it or get the broken toy. And my little sister Sera when she was 1 she got my room so I got the storage room… And I watch them when they fight and it some how always turn on me them saying “well she did that”. Or something.

    I never complain because if I do its usally ignored or I get yelled at because of it. My friends bailed when my youngest sister bought them stuff so now she has friends that are 10 years older then her.

    I’m happy that there are people that are like me..

  16. Hi. You have explained middle child syndrome in a very very basic form. As there is alot more to it. Also the solution for the middle child to leave his parents at a early stage say after getting his degree at 21 and starting his own family like myself is the best solution. Where I was able to give my own children, all 3 of them equal treatment and respect. Which boosted my belief that a true father and mother like god never discriminate between their children especially due to when they were born. I myself and my wife have a big heart and are very wise and naturally love all 3 of our children equally. We dont feel that one deserves more than the other as all 3 are special to us, and if parents cant see this then they are blinded by illusion and are literally hurting their child which is no fault of his own. If you can discriminate between your own children due to such infatuation and literal blindness, then please tell me will such people not discriminate amongst the rest of their family and friends. They say a mother is god to a child, and when such a mother starts to treat you like a step mother only because you are the middle child is not only a sin in gods eyes but also a sign of great selfishness and heartlessness in the eyes of human kind.
    Therefore there is only one cure for the suffering middle child, and that is to make his pain his strength and let the world know about such wrong doing and help people understand how evil such a syndrome is, and try to teach parents and people as a whole the true meaning of love which is;
    1- forgiveness
    2- compassion
    4- peace
    5- happiness
    6- gratefulness
    7- understanding
    8- self- control
    9- patience
    10- wisdom
    11- truth
    12- kindness

    A child has great expectations off his/her parents. As his parents are his first teachers, and if he is not loved and feels his other siblings are made to look special then just image the pain and suffering that child goes through . Have you any idea?
    And the more he will stay with his parents the more he will suffer and the more he will be reminded again and again of the mis-treatment building hate not love. The best anaswer is to leave as early as possible to start a new life with your own true belief in love which you pass onto your children and your children then pass it on to their children
    LOVE IS THE ANSWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. this is true,im the middle child of three and I always had to watch my sisters get spoiled. I never received special gifts or help with my homework. My dad is willing to do so much for my older sister, and my Mom is always asking my younger sister what she wants and needs, makes her sandwiches and stuff.

    1. I am a middle child of three. I always try to achive my goals but the lack of support kills me everyday. Yes, my parents do a lot. But I am never recognized for anything. I am in National Joinor Honnor Socitey, and Student Counsil. They only know about cheer and volleyball. The other day they called me Reain ( my older sister) normal to them I am franceis (the youngest/favorite). They didn’t even know who my best friend was, Terry. I feel so ashamed of my gorgeousbody because they only tell Reain and franceis they are pretty or skinny or gorgeous. Thank you for helping me understand that I have a problem that many others do too.

  18. Thank you soooo much for this article! I am the youngest of 3 and my middle brother in the family resorts to crazy and frustrating things to get respect/admiration sometimes, and I never understood it til now. I’m 26 and my brother is 30 and I really want to help him but he also hates psychological analysis so I don’t know what to do! Maybe just remind him over and over and over again that it’s not his fault 😉 Thanks again, this article was a great start for me to help him!

  19. All the comments on this page are so gloomy so I thought I’d just say;
    I’m so glad there are other people out there like me, my mum and dad don’t neglect me enough to notice it from an outside perspective and they don’t mean to but my older sisters such a drama queen. She’s going through her GCSE’s and I’m just starting them so she gets all the hugs. I hardly ever complain as people wouldn’t beleive that I’m upset. My friends are always saying that I’m never angry and always easy going. My older sister bosses me around and my younger brother gets the attention he diserves although he can be big headed. My mum and dad always joke bout me having middle child syndrome as they don’t beleive it’s real.

    Just wanted to say, I’m so glad I’m not the only one. I thought I was being melodramatic (even though that’s not what I’m known for!!!

  20. Let me tell you what I hate most about being a middle child.

    I’ve grown so needy because of this. It doesn’t matter if I’ve only known a person for a month. I can instantly trust her and just like that, I get attached. I get attached to so many people because I’ve always been neglected by my family and for this, I HATE THEM! I hate them because one of my friends who is also my teacher is resigning and I am having a very hard time coping. I’ve been crying for almost a month since she told me about her decision. I blame my family for this. If they’d only given me the connection I needed at home, I wouldn’t be seeking for it from other people and I wouldn’t be so devastated that they’re leaving me.

    I’m crying as I’m writing this because just this afternoon, my teacher bade me goodbye. I will never see her again because she’s migrating to another country. How could it not be enough that my family doesn’t see me? Why would life take away the only person I depend on as well?


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