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 also a middle child( older sister, younger brother), and I have suffered because of it. I was always compared to my older sister(smarter, excelled at sports), and my younger brother(sports fanatic). I felt like an oputsider most of my life, and that has affected my relationship with my family to this day. I have n contact with either one because I am viewed as a screwed up person. I’ve made my own life now, without them in it, and I am a better person for it. I make sure my children know that they are equally loved, and we are a happy family unit.

    1. Perhaps, we middle children will be emotionally in piece after we have our own family and treat them equally. Hopefully I will someday too. I think you have a happy ending with your own family so let’s enjoy that and forget the sorrow past.

  2. I’m a middle child too; of 5 siblings, 2 older brothers, a younger sis and a younger bro.

    idk i’ve never talked about this to anyone cos I find it hard. I’m an achiever in my family; i’m the weirdest too; like i do stuffs different from them, dressed differently and my interests and stuffs are different too.. but i do things differently cos well; I’m different and that’;s me and I can;t change who I am.. my bonds with my siblings are very bad.. like i’m awkward with everyone in my own house. i don’t really talk to my younger sis / younger bro, and my older brothers have adult stuffs to take care of so we’re not close.. my siblings treat me like an outcast.. I always hated staying in my parent’s house and stuff cos I always feel not wanted..
    My parents are busy workers.. So I don’t really tell on them or anything cos i don;t want them to worry about us let alone worry about me being mistreated by my siblings.
    So I just keep everythng inside and just, be patient about everything. and eventually being alone has just become a norm.. so everything is fine now. I’m living separately from everyone else cos it’s easier to get to campus and stuffs; and well, I can never be more happy cos I get to stay alone in this apartment. I do feel envious of my friends who share great bonds with their siblings, but what can I do.. I’m just not wanted (: when i was younger I hated it, I hated this feeling and I was depressed, but time just heal everything.. So middle children out there, if you are being mistreated by your family, just… be patient about it.. When it’s time, everything will just feel okay again 😀

  3. I’m a middle child.Everything I do there has to be a way for my family to scold me.Every time both my brothers provoke me, they don’t get scolded but for me…YES- Must get scolded.I keep all my secrets in my heart.Never once told anybody. But I like to say to myself-‘ All middle child are strong cause they keep secrets and no one knows this god damn feeling.
    I always feel frustrated and assulted by my family.

  4. im a middle child too, but whats is more complicated i came from a mexican family. i have a sister who is deaf hard of hearing and mental retardation, a brother after me who is hard o hearing an he is 11, and the way youngest one 9 a boy who is so fuckened spoil that my parents wouldnt even do shit when im telling them that he is misbehaving. so over all by mentallity im the oldest. well my history is that my parents grew up strict and in poverty over thier in mexico. they grew knowing that the way to desipline is wires, belts and locking in the closet. well those traditions continue with them when i started at age 5. when ever i did something wrong is firts beat me with a belt. if i continue then goes the closset that will be locked where you cant get out. well yeah. then after my brother came, things got even worse. they told me that i should help out with all the chores for them. if i refused a belt woopin or closet. well you i refused. then after the last one came things got calmed out for a while not more belt or closet since now. well right know since im older i still got the anger and emotional scars in me. since my parent are devouted catholics, when i bring up memories of the beatings and closets they will denied. then i told them in gods name swear (well all silence mean that they cant denny it) i went to counseling several times but my parents are complete hypocrites. well here the deep description me.
    all i want you guys to know is love your kids equally.
    dont treat them different cause if the new borned.
    beating a child cant make a diffence.
    never use the closet or belt as punish ment.
    because your shouldnt be like me. in my mined is all deep and sinester.
    due to all the abuse of parents.
    i severly emotion scar that became.
    i still forgive my parents , but ill never forget their scars even if i tried to.
    again love your child and take care of them.
    god blessed you guys and i hope you take my advice.

  5. I’m a middle and I hate it. I am ‘ bang on’ classic ” Middle Child Syndrome”. ( I guess just by admitting that is a ‘ middle-child ‘ thing). I have been clinically depresssed most of my adult life, and now I am at that stage where I HAVE given up.

    I have a somewhat successful blog that hardly pays me and I’m a struggling actor. I guess being a artist doesn’t help much emotionally and mentally. Acting is a given for rejection, but I decided to follow my dream in the fashion industry, and it killed me. My spirit, my light and my ability to feel ‘fear’ once again.
    A lot of people just competing to be better than the other one. Like a room FULL of middle children!!!

    I lost contact with my family…my choice, because I was feeling the rejection I felt as a child, all over again. It’s hard to have relationships with strangers that truly support you and NOTHING from my family. I know they have their own lives, but I make the time to see and hear about what’s going on with their lives. They see me as ‘odd’ and that I have a ridiculous ‘job’, for lack of a better word. I don’t get paid.
    Due to a disasterous visit to Vegas, where my ” father ” lives, I had an adverse reaction to lack of medication. He basically was killing me FAST! Yelling and screaming in the cold at night in front of the WORST Hospital in LasVegas. We have no relationship now. I am scared of him, loud noises, lack of self-esteem, once again and deep depression.
    I am in shock as I type this…

    I’m moving forward as best as i can, but it’s more difficult when many other issues have come afloat.

    American have the worst medical system ever! No patient care, what so ever.If you could have only seen ehat I saw as I sat theere for at least 7 hours.
    Customs held my medication for 5 days!!! this is why I was sent to the emergency. I ran out of meds. Mind you, they had 5 days to clear it. I got it the day before I left Vegas. I was a mess….and still am.

    I’m going to make plans to go away and start a new life filled with joy. Once I make enough money to leave, I’m so gone!

    Being a middle child really sucks.

  6. Being a middle child I did feel invisible at times; my older sister had depression and my little sister was needy.
    On the other hand, I feel it helped me form my own independence: I made great grades, of my sisters I’m the only one who knows how to cook, as well as I’m the only one who is career driven.
    Middle children just need to communicate their feelings, and they’ll get the attention they need.

  7. I am a middle child. I remember my interviewer for admissions to U Penn gave me an unexpected condescending reaction when I mentioned I am. I did not understand why. Those of us who do not feel the listed effects are not here to brag. We just wish to share with you the other side as everyone else is allowed to comment. I grew up understanding my parents are people who go through trial and error. They are not responsible for who I am today. I embraced my passions solely on my own. Victimizing oneself is an outlook. People (not just middle children) need to take responsibility to forgive and come to peace to recognize how beautiful they are on their own. It is work that reaps great rewards.

    1. Look lady im twelvee and the middle child im a girl and i might no whats going on sure i receive love but u may not notice this but once u get started the other child comes in with. A bigger problem and u forget everything u were doing and its so hurtful to us middle children that it makes as leave to our rooms sometimes leading to crying i have done it im not sure what age your daughter is so i might be wrong

      U know your child has already been tortured by the other siblings and what r u doing about that and if u just started showing your child attention ITS TO LATE

      1. I did mention I am a middle child.

        I encourage you to continue do well in school. Take up activities and let people be happy with you. Don’t let the name of middle child syndrome validate the way you feel. Those who give love receive love in return. If you run off crying, no one understands why and you build a wall from those who try. They begin to give up reaching out to you if you keep responding that way as their efforts seem useless.

        You defend yourself by offending someone like me who just wants to show a way out of this sadness. You don’t even know me and you attacked me before understanding my comment. Talk to yourself in the mirror this way and you will see what it is like on the other side. It’s not pleasant. I contemplated on if I should even respond. Why should I give my time of day to this mean girl. Why should anyone help you if you don’t help yourself? Please explain to you guidance counselor that you are not happy and that you are venting to strangers online. You need support from a person in front of you if you cannot discuss this with your family yourself.

        You already have this stranger responding to you despite you yelling in caps. You have a very bright future if you take ownership of your life.

    2. Kip; I am a parent. I have a middle child. I grew up “the baby”. It is reassuring to know that all middle children do not have the middle child syndrome. There is a problem with this syndrome. It is based on the perception that there may be a problem merely due to the order in which a person was born. While perceptions often become reality, on the other hand, there really may not be problem at all but just a perceived one. I will always love my middle child and I will always love my oldest and youngest child. This is speaking as a concerned parent of three children; all with very different needs and expectations; and all often with needs and expectations unmet.

    3. Kip,

      Thanks. I’ve been going through the ringer lately, largely due to my inability to step out from behind my ‘walls’ you mention below. But this is something that I have to address, not them.

      I’ve been told about the whole middle child thing growing up, and never really understood it. Still don’t. But your words help reinforce my belief that I am the only one that can really do something about it by adjusting my reaction.

      Thanks again!

  8. I am the parent of three children, my middle child does display many of the traits you have commented on. You say the middle child behaves this way because they do not receive ANY love or support, I disagree, I try day and night to support her but there seems to be no pleasing some people. any other thoughts always willing to try something new.


    1. it is not always that the parent does not show love. I am a middle child and struggled all my life with it. My older sister ALWAYS fought for the attention and always had to out shine me. It is not the parents lack of love but the lack of noticing what is happening between the siblings. You have to defend the middle one and find what they like to do and let that be theirs and no one elses. Competition amongst siblings only makes it worse. Also attacking or saying they are just being sensitive and they are imagining things… Not a good thing. Dont try too hard that will make them feel like you are giving them pitty. Middle child does not want pitty they just want to be special or feel like they are better for once.

  9. i hate being a middle child once it broke me down so much i cried for like 2 days straight sometimes i wonder if there’s anyone out there who understands what its like being misunderstood i have no privacy and my mother is like being stabbed always taking there sides i don’t exist its to complicated to write down but i can try my sisters made my life a living just writing it brings me to tears watching eight simple rules the t.v show makes me cry when the mother takes the blond chicks side all the time it sucks i hate what they have done i don’t like going downstairs because i cant stand there being there there always judging me it feels like I’m starving myself because i don’t like eating dinner downstairs with them so i only at half of it and i am always in my room i feel trapped i sometimes feel so alone its to complicated to write i cant stan this its sufficating

    1. Hello Bianca,

      I’m sorry that you feel this way. :( I can understand the tears and frustration, I’ve been in that position when I was younger.

      Try writing down your feelings like you have in this post; but maybe in a bullet point format, such as
      * You don’t give me enough hugs.
      * I need more Mom and Me time.
      * I sometime feel I have to yell over everyone before you notice I have something to say.
      * When I come home from school, I need privacy until (insert time) in my room to unwind.

      Then you ask your mom to sit down with you so you can go over the list together.

      That way she’ll hear verbally and see visually your feelings.

      You sound like a sweet person, so I hope things work out on your part. :)

  10. My parents do not listen to me when I try to tell them how being the middle child affects me. They refuse to acknowledge or even admit that they might treat me differently, so I feel as though my feelings are being cast aside and that they don’t care about them. The feelings get bottled up inside me until I break down and cry and yell at my parents about how I feel, but they still don’t listen to me.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Have you ever kept a log of each time they’ve ignored you?
      Perhaps you can find a mediator who can view the dynamics of your family which can vouch for your position of “invisibility”.
      Keep trying to be heard, leave them e-mails, notes, etc.

    2. Hey Jamie

      i understand well i never yell at them but i tell them and tell them over and over and it had no affect on them my siblings depress me because they like smiling im seriously considering self harm :( to see if it could grave some attention (none) and to see if anything could hurt more than being who i am (nothing could possibly hurt more)

      my mother never got worried about me though but when it started affecting my siblings and the rest of my family she decided to call my dad hoping that could talk some sense into me he tried but they both don’t understand not even if they tried my dad was the oldest my mom was youngest they had it easy very easy everything came handed to them on a silver platter :( but I’m not going to stop trying to become someone in my family (no affect) but at least i know I’m trying they kinda aknowledge my existance (only when im creating drama)

  11. I have 2 older siblings and 2 younger siblings. the two oldest are best friends and the 2 youngest are best friends and I’m just in the middle of it all. I don’t get along with any of them. My parents blame me for none of them liking me but my parents don’t know how they all treat me and I just keep it to myself. I usually just keep to myself at home. I have a lot of friends but my family constantly pushes me away from them telling me that family is more important. I don’t happen to see it that way considering my friends are always there for me, while my family brings me down all the time. I’m almost 18, just waiting to leave.

    1. i have 1 older sister and 1 younger sister they r the girliest girls on the planet im a tomboy and i feel like a disepointment to my mother because she gets mad if i dont wear a dress and i wanted to let u know that our not alone

  12. I definitely suffer from at least some aspects of middle child syndronme. When I was a really young kid (before I was the middle), I actually got a ton of attention, almost too much. My parents always laugh about how I would ignore my younger sister when she was first in the house. Little did they know I was getting psychologically harmed. I felt pushed aside. As a 19 year old today I am not close with anyone in my family, aside from my mom (and I’m still not that close to her). I live a life that my family has no clue about. I’m rebellious, and I knowingly deceive my family all of the time. I didn’t really feel included before, so why not try new things? I’m also pretty introverted; I have friends, but I’m not really close to many of them. Usually I isolate myself in my room whenever I am at home. I don’t talk very much, and it isn’t easy for me to meet new people. No one knows me. I didn’t have very much trouble getting attention when I was younger, since I was the only male child in the house. I almost prefer to have less attention focused on me. I never am a bother to anyone, and I don’t think I have anyone who really considers me an enemy. I am incredibly independent. I am well liked, but I am unknown. I don’t feel like a belong anywhere sometimes.

    1. omg thats near to the exact words i would say to explain me i just wasnt completly sure of the reasons helps to here:)

  13. This is my life story. I’m 14 and this has happened to me all the time. Example: Just today my mom yelled at me for not feeding the dogs when it is my brothers job. I had to go out and feed them but my brother didn’t get in trouble at all.

    1. hi Quadie11.. i’m a middle child too… like u, that’s my everyday experience.. it’s sad but its true..i feel like i need to do all my siblings chores alone :( atleast i know i am not alone..

  14. I have always been aware of it; elder brother could do no wrong and younger brother, the baby getting all of the affection. But I partially blamed my gender, the only girl, as being the problem – Mum didn’t like girls and Dad regarded them as a burden. Only by reading what has been said on the subject, do I relaised that my life has followed the exact middle-child pattern. Left home early, abusive husband, emigrated, over-ached in my career and so on.

    I had always thought it odd that no-one could remember the time of day I was born, but this last week I received my biggest shock. At the age of eight or so I had an extremely bad whip-lash accident – I jumped from second story height and on the way down, hit my head on a piece of scaffolding. I was left with a deep dent in my forehead. But as my parent sought no medical attention, the real damage, my spine, was not discovered until I was an adult. The terrible headaches I suffered as a child were shrugged off. Now daring to mention that the problem I have at the top of the spine, have begun causing problems lower down, I find that no family member even remembers the accident. I am asking myself if I ever really existed as a child.

  15. i am the middle child of the first marriage, but the oldest that has lived. I am now close to sixty…and always wondered why i didn’t fit in to either families…these comments have help clear a few things up for me…thank you…just not sure how to reconcile all the wrongs or hurts now that the parents are gone…but thanks to you all

    1. Forgiveness is the answer. You have to forgive your parents and yourself and let go of the past. Press on postively to the futher. And now that you understand the middle child syndrome break that cycle: recognise the efforts of each child equally, ensure that they are family activities and individual actitivities (each child must have an activity and all the others must go out together and support some aspect of that activity), educate all the parents in your circle, as well as the children where they are more than two children, … .

  16. Hi, I’ve a question I hope someone who was a middle child may be able to suggest an answer to. Do you think a teenage MC who is portraying many of the characteristics you people are describing and who could end up in trouble by looking to have needs met in the wrong places should be told about MCS to help them understand their behaviour or maybe as a teenager you don’t want to be faced with your attention seeking? Or put another way – now as an adult, do you think it would have been helpful if somone had told you that you were displaying classic MC characteristics? Thanks. RM

    1. I can not tell you from an adults perspective but I am a teenager so here is what I think. A middle child should be told about the syndrome. Although telling them can cause some problems like a feeling of loneliness and displacement it helps more. Personally the discovery of MCS allowed me to get over some things. I expect to be attention seeking and i know i do it and i expect everything else that goes along with it. This expectation helps me remeber that i am not alone because there are plenty of other MC’s out there with the same or very similar problems. To sum up i believe from a teenagers perspective it REALLY helped knowing about MCS.

    2. Older adult middle who has made fun of myself for years because of the crazy things I would do to get attention. Of course I’m jealous of my older sister — I still see her up on that pedestal so beautiful. But I love her dearly and never acted out my jealousy toward her — except when I would hide her makeup and put hard, sharp things under the sheets when she would get in bed. 😉
      But during my teenage years, I really got stuck in the feelings of inadequacy. I probably still carry that dysfunctional behavior. I think that if a caring adult — especially if it were one of my parents — took the time to discuss my feelings, then I would have been given the tools and knowledge to try to change my feelings. It took years to discover that I was carrying a burden that was a total fabrication. ANY time a parent can reassure their child about mixed emotions paves the way for greater sanity.

  17. This really is a REAL problem. I have faced this my entire life. I am now 43 and trying to understand how to fix me. I definitely comes the lack of emotional support. You find yourself becoming emotional attached to people that you shouldn’t be.
    I should be old enough now that things from my childhood don’t bother me but it does. This week my Dad got upset with me and I still don’t understand what I did or why he is upset. But I have cried and cried. It hurt at such a deep level.
    I am searching for a way to like ME. What I am is not dependent on what others think about me but I have to convince myself of that first. Good luck to all of you “middle” children.

    1. Good Luck too – just ask it may help ease your mind. I am still emotional (30) esp. when it comes to immediate family.

  18. I am now 42 years old and a middle child, I had to basically do for myself in my teenage years. Taking everything into consideration my older brother is still a momma’s boy and cannot do anything without mommy’s permission; looking at my mother’s reactions towards my brother is obvious that he is her baby. As, for my younger sister she is still searching for the attention my father who passed in 1995 he gave her in other words at 37 she is still a spoiled little girl. Although, some would say that I have MCS I am glad that I have been independent my entire life because, I can take care of myself without any help from family or outsiders. I sometimes contact my mother, brother and sister but, 95% of the time I am a loner there is no need to contact me unless there is a death in the family. I keep myself away from family BBQ’s and really do not care if anyone even contacts me on Facebook. I am, I LOVE with my fiance my son has made it to Auburn University on a full scholarship although I am the middle child things are pretty much OK. That would have been hard for me to say growing up as a child into my teenage years but, I learned to adapt and overcome all of those negative thoughts to be a well rounded adult.

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