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 totally on board with what you said. I am a middle child and the only girl do you would think that just because I’m the only girl I would get all the attention well nope it did not happen. My older brother was always getting into trouble at school and hanging out with the bad crowd and my little brother was born premature and was always sick so I was stuck in the middle and was always pushed aside. I played sports just to get my parents attention it worked at first but then subsided. I know a lot of people are going to complain about what I’m about to say but I got married at 15, don’t judge cause you do not know my life, I got tired and fed up that I was left behind and everyone was either talking about my older brother and his problems and my younger brother and his sickness that had a baby and got married early. Well we will be going on ten years of marriage and now I have three kids and I am thankful and do happy that I spend time with each of my kids not not concentrating on one more than the other. I know I was too young for a baby and marriage but I think I’m doing pretty good for going on ten years and have three beautiful kids. I try my best to give my middle child all the attention she needs so that she will not feel like I did when I was little. My eldest is in sports, my middle child loves to sing and dance and my little one is just two so my husband and I try out best to give them all the attention they need. I am grateful to have them in my life wouldn’t change it for anything.

    1. Hi @ aime. I was scrolling down through all the posts looking for an only girl, stuck in the middle… Thinking by myself pfffft its not possible only daughters always get the attention and praise, I just got rotten luck. Haha well I guess not. Being in the middle sucks and being the only girl makes it worse… Espesially with a mother like mine, I love her to bits but we’re not close… Not even close!! She prefers boys… I remember cleaning after my brothers and being the one with good marks (actually brilliant marks) in school, I was the only one taking part in sports and getting certificates… Ever!! But it was never good enough. I tried talking stuff through with my mother but she always changed the subject, ignoring my atempt. My 21st birthday is this weekend and its a surprise theme, ya all probably thinking oh that’s nice, but its not cause my brother and his friends are the guests, even though I don’t like them. I can’t invite my friends to a party where my brother likes to embaress me and make me feel soooooo belittled, my brother is suspended from his job for being drunk at work, so ya him and his drunken friends will be attending my party in which I have no say in, I can’t choose who I want to be t here, I can’t choose the theme, I can’t even choose my outfit. My boyfriend is also a middle child, which makes it easier sice he understands and supports me where he can.
      To think for my present I got a car, which I’m paying for, I’m paying insurance and the best is both my brothers got cars as a PRESENT for their 18th birthdays!!!!! I’m buying my own car and doing it on my own. No help whatsoever. My younger brother is spoiled to the ground, my mother always goes on about him being her blue eyed boy who is soooooo perfect and my eldest brother is the reckless can do whatever one who can cry on mommy’s shoulder when he stuffs up. Where I am the cast out, the ignored one, but thanks ma…. I’m the strongest, I’m the one buying my own car, I’m the one who is working to be successful to stand on my own so I don’t have to watch you break me down. I don’t care much for attention but I really just want to be heard and considered. To be an equal!

  2. This is so true.

    When I was younger people used to tease me about having “middle child syndrome” and I always assumed it was just a saying. But my whole life I’ve been left out of my family and I don’t feel like I belong. I have an older and younger sister (18, 14) ( I am 16) and they are basically best friends. They do everything together and have loads of private jokes and even walk to school together where I walk alone. Neither of them like me all that much and I know I can be annoying and moody so most of the time I don’t blame them, but I try so hard to be a part of their lives and they can’t see past the emotional side of me which I blame on my hormones anyway.
    I have felt neglected by my parents for years, and I haven’t actually spoken to my mum in about 4 months. I’ve even started counting down the days until I’m 18 and can leave.
    Obviously I can’t blame this all on “middle child syndrome” but it pretty much sums up everything I’m feeling. And as for “psychotic behavior”; my dad accidentally left a craft knife in my room a while back, no prizes for guessing what that’s been used for.
    So yeah; I’m crazy, depressed and probably have something seriously wrong with me mentally but at least I have something to blame part of it on.

  3. i totally agree with everyone who is experiensing middle child syndrome as i am because i feel the same way. i am old enough to do boring thing but not old enough to do the fun things as well. this is misfurtone because i have no alternatives. thier are so many unfair things that happens to me and i dont even know were to start. when i get into an argument with my older siblings i get told that i am being disrespectful and i get disiplend for it. when i get into an argument with my younger sibling i get to the i am being unmature that i need to be the adult because thier the little on and i need to be the bigger person. my older siblings are allowed to beat me up when we get into an argument because thier older then me and i was being disrespectful by talking back and defending myself but when i try to do the samething to my younger sibling i get told that they are not my child so i am not allowed to hit them. on top of that my parents think that my younger siblings are smarter then i am just because im in the speacial education program and they get more respect then i do by other people that are younger then them. i am the nicest one in my whole intire house and i treat everyone so nicely and when people take a look at me and my little sister they would say that shes nicer then i am without even knowing me. my little sister disrespects me in public alot and i get embaressed by it and instead of people looking at her in a wierd way about what she did to me so she can feel ashamed on herself people look at me like that because she embaressed me like hellow im not the one doing the action. if anything she should feel ashamed in herself for embarssing me like that. i give so mush and recive nothing in return its like i am coursed. thier are more unfair thing that happens to me to such as verball bullying but i dont want to get into all that because i am tierd of writting. its like no one takes me sirously when im mad its like what ever because its just me but when its other people its not the same way like its so frustrating i am a person i have a spirit treat me with respect by tacking my feelings into consideration and stop thinking that im less important compaired to other people. what did i ever do to deserve to be treated the way i do. its one thing when outsiders do it but its another thing when its family. i just hate the condition im in i have people that controles me, disrespect me, and could care less about my feelings by saying disturbing things to me. thier is a person/people in my life to treat me with all of thies gross injust . i am so kind and if kindness can kill i would be gone so why does this happen to me?

  4. Well I always knew I had MCS, I could always tell my parents treated me differently , to my older brother and younger sister, I did very well in high school and varsity, bt my achievements were always downplayed , and my sister and brother were very average and didn’t , and I got bitter at the fact in all my years of studying my parents have never ever helped me with any homework or anything academic related, yet they demand I help my sister, it makes me feel bitter, and the story of my life right now at the age of 21, taking my sister to school taking, my mom to work, cleaning the house, going to varsity, fetching my sister, and fetching my mom, and then cooking supper, note that my mom has her own car, but refuses to take her self to work cause I only go to varsity once a week, now doing all that you would think that my parents would appretiate me me more, they don’t ! Nothing is good enough, I’m never allowed to do anything, I have to be home by 12 at night, yet my brother who is 2 years older then I am, goes out for the whole weekend all the time. And that’s ok, I feel resentful towards my parents, I’ve always felt less loved, yet had the most responsibilities, and got no credit, I’m eager to start a family of my own to, but I wana do things the right w, love all my children in an obvious way. I don’t want my kids to feel the way I feel, the resentment I’m always going to feel towards my parents

  5. I’m a middle child with an older sister and younger brother. I’d heard about MCS when I was younger and just thought it was something my parents used to make me mad when they’d say, “Oh, there’s that Middle Child Syndrome coming out in you again!”, but now I understand how serious it can be. Those psychotic tendencies they’re talking about? I’ve experienced them. Seeing your siblings treated better, it makes you insane.

  6. First let me say that I am a middle child and I do believe in Middle Child Syndrome. I do not believe that it is just an excuse for dysfunctional people. I do agree that any child, at any age and that is birthed in any order can feel these same emotions and feelings; however, I also feel there is some validity to it. It is true that in a lot, not all, but a lot of cases the middle child is looked over, maybe not intentionally, but it happens. The oldest gets the award for being the oldest and the first, so they’re always special and the baby, well the baby (the youngest) is the baby and they’re always special for that. The middle child is just the one in between and that is how I feel and have felt for a long time. Now does it mean that I have all of the emotional damage or issues that were listed in the article, NO! However, I will say again, for me, it definitely has some validity and I don’t think I am dysfunctional and trying to look for someway to claim it, I just believe that they are others like me and just like anything else, when you feel a certain way in life, you don’t want to think or believe you are by yourself. So it feels good to know that there are others who feel how you feel….they just happen to middle children.

  7. I’m a second and middle child. When I was in my early teens, I felt the syndrome and signs. I believe every family has an imperfection– parents in raising their children and they might not have perfected the craft since during their time there are not much books and less media talking about parenting.

    My ordeal did not come from my parents tho but from a cruel older sister– but guess who raised her to be that way? my parents!haha!
    She gets jealous of me, selfish of attention and self-centre. She deliberately inflicts pain to me emotional, at times physical if she does not get the things she wants and she goes to the extent of lending my dresses, books and other things to her friends without asking permission or at least letting me know she did.

    I did not really mind if i was not their favorite. I just expect a fair share in everything but sadly a lot of times non fave does not get what they deserve not even just the basic.

    On the positive note, middle child becomes more independent. They are survivors and can do a lot of things on their own and better with ideas and ways to make their life more happy.

    Yes, true we get to the point of getting used to IT. We always have choices–either we accept and lose OR walk away from their bullying and WIN!

    Dont let them get in your way! I chose to walk away at the best time when I was ready. I finished school, tried to get employed and live according to what i earn, make both ends meet and get free from them. I chose to distant myself without spite but for peace and avoid clashes.

    Focus on things and people who makes you happy and cleave to them. Pray that God sends you to the best people who deserves your love. Life goes on, we just have to move on with it.

  8. It is unfortunate that this type of misinformation is posted on the internet. Any child can feel unloved and rejected if not given adequate attention and love, regardless of their birth order. I am a middle child and highly functional, more so than my youngest sibling. To put this kind of stereotype out there just gives disfunctional people an excuse for their disfunction. The fact is that we get to choose whether we pursue our family stereotypes or live the happy, free, wonderful lives to which we are entitled. We, not our birth order, determines this. Shame on you for spreading this pap.

  9. Well,I don’t totally agree on this Middle child Syndrome,because i do not compete with my other siblings,but yes,I am an Achiever but with regards to low self-esteem and lack of emotional support and all,I don’t totally agree because I’m very close to my parents and they even entrusted me to look after my younger and older though they are very capable of looking out on themselves.I guess the middle child is more of a responsible one because they tend to see how their younger and older siblings do ,and they are very keen on how they feel and they tend to be so caring about there welfare.

  10. i never thought coming across this article would made me feel relieved for a while. i’m 23, second child with an older brother and a younger brother.

    true enough, i never really get the same amount of attention received by both my brothers (it’s not even close to half). i was the only one who was made to do all the house chores and the only reason i ever get when i asked why was ,”because you’re a girl”. i was practically invincible to my parents and the family (since they see only my brothers). and doesnt really matter im sad or happy, no one cares or gives a damn. my needs is a burden but when it comes to my brothers, it’s a need.

    i was almost invincible at home, no one hardly noticed me so it doesn’t really matters whether i’m with the family or not. and i was often thrown with humiliation and embarrassing ‘jokes’ which often crossed the line by almost everyone in the family. let’s just say they were good at making me feel like an extra or outcast and when i snapped at their sarcastic jokes, all were thrown at me was, “you cant take any jokes?’ “why are you so cranky?” or “you’re darn cheap”. no one acknowledge my strength and my weakness was made a laughing stock in the whole family.

    doesn’t really matters whether i’m good in studies (i was one of the top scorer in school for public exams compared to my brothers), the first to graduated in public university in the family or with achievement in things im doing during my university year, there’s always something nasty for them to said. and what’s more, my brother choose to work part time rather than attending my convocation next week while my big brother never failed to gave me the ‘urghhhh u’re troublesome’ look when i ask him about it.

    and yes, im totally different from my brothers. im into photography, music and writing. and yes, couzzies,siblings and family even have pretty nasty things to said bout this difference.

    oh, i actually have the thought of committing suicide and almost fell into depression when i was young. never really escape from the loneliness in the family up till now :(

  11. I’m a middle child and from reading this article and the comments below i feel so much better that i’m not alone. I’m 25 and already a mother to one girl with my boyfriend. This MCS drives me to have a family on my own because i can only feel loved by my boyfriend for almost 4 years. I live in a culture where parents are strict and conservative christians. My parents are proud with my older sister who is a college teacher making a high pay(well i understand it’s something to be proud of),and my younger brother who’s still a college student who barely gets high grades in school and has failures in most of his subjects and a couch potato at home doing nothing but playing online games, are treated by my parents like they’re doing great. While me, the middle child, I stopped college when i was 18 because of my very low self esteem and got rebellious because of having a hard time at home. People tell me “hey you’re beautiful but you’re a weirdo), i don’t care.I’m very introverted and i don’t even have enough friends to accompany with. I’m getting used to become invisible because of what my parents treated me at home. My mom is the worst when it comes to counseling me because it’s not helpful as she verbally abuses me which leads me to hitting her with objects,but that happened when i was like 18 . I know it’s bad and she’s still my mother but she can be so harsh and i couldn’t tolerate hearing her hurtful words. She doesn’t like to listen to me, she thinks she’s always right and her opinion only matters. She lacks emotional support since i was a child and saying “i love you” personally to one another seems too hard for our family. I always say “i love you” to my daughter and my boyfriend and we’re sweet to each other because i don’t want our dysfunctionality to happen in my own family. Even though i haven’t finished college, i become the most talented in our family. i’m into photography, graphic design, crafts, event planning, i also play instruments like guitar and keyboards. And my siblings don’t have such skills like mine. Yet my mom still thinks i’m still lacking something.

  12. iv been feeling deep anger and hatred and most of the times feel like i don’t belong anywhere i go. being the middle child isn’t fun especially when your ‘baby’ sister (even though shes 2 years younger) is handed everything on a silver plater and your oldest sister has always gotten the most attention for her loud, outgoing, sporty, personality. me the ‘trouble maker’, is always in the shadow of both no matter what. mum always sticking up for the baby and never listing to my needs and dad always having the spot light on his precious eldest girl. they call this place i live a home, but last time i checked home is where you are comfortable, where your always welcomed back, and even where you feel love. this isn’t a home. only 4 more years till i graduate and i can finally leave, leaving isn’t going to bring peace forever but enough till i get my heart where i want it too be….*sigh* thanks family so much for the hell i live everyday./:

    1. EXACTLY! The Same With Me Except My Mom Is Sticking Up For Both Of Them And My Dad Is More For The Youngest she’s 2 years younger and so is is my eldest
      i always making trouble is pushing them away but
      to be honest i kinda like the personal space and at least i have my friends who are also trouble makers by my side as long as you have the family that really cares about you (your friends)than it really doesn’t matter what happens with your relatives at home

  13. MCS here. One day my mom took me to a theme park because she had actually realized how little attention I got. It was always either my sister or brother who were causing my parents issues and grief. I was quiet and just fell into gaming (false sense of accomplishment maybe?)

    I’ve got my issues and such, as we all do, but even to this day, I’m still the quiet one. I’d like some attention, but I think so low of myself, it kinda keeps me in a rut cycle. Ah well, someone’s always got it worse than you do, right?

    1. Your so right i can agree with you on so many levels
      i try to tell my parents but of course
      they are occupied with all their attention on my siblings
      (calling them sisters makes me sick to the stomach)
      so there’s really not ever a chance for me to fit into their busy um schedules it doesn’t matter i mean like you said someone has always got it a lot worse than you do,

  14. YES IT is very real…I have gotten use to it and understand that they loved me just as much but I can see it in alot of people I know. Especially in their early teens up to 20’s. It can be devastating if you are insecure to begin with and have an older sibling who gets his ass kissed no matter what..Not a big deal for me Im a guy but I can see if a middle child was a girl. It would be hell..

  15. MCS is all too familiar here… I am 22, and it is absolutely horrible living at home because of how I am treated. My 18 year old brother wakes up at noon, lays around all day, then stays out til 3am, and repeats the process. My sister is 24, she moved out 2 years ago, and is still home almost every single day. My mom loves them so much and shows them much more than me. I’m the one being told to do all the dishes, the laundry, cleaning up the house when we have guests. It’s ridiculous. I’m planning my wedding at the moment, and she seems bored anytime I try talking to her about it, to get her involved. My fiance has even said that he can tell that I am not treated the same as my siblings, making the MCS even more real. I want to move out so bad, but my fiance and i want to wait until we both have a decent income to afford everything.

    1. wow seems you have it harder than i do maybe i shouldn’t complain i mean it’s obvious I’m not treated the same as my siblings but i pretty much put that on myself I’m always getting myself into trouble but i was hoping to have it grave some attention not make my
      MCS even worse
      it doesn’t matter because you know you start getting used to it and well when you see your mom you know doing one tiny thing off edge like saying good morning it feels like thats SPECIAL TREATMENT
      but it’s not I’m sure many of my middle childe syndrome people here understand this feeling

  16. I have been aware for a long time that I was affected by the MCS. As said by many people here I felt empty and inadequate. My parents always end up scolding for matters that are far beyond my doing yet rather those of my siblings. It’s difficult as even though I’m an introvert I actually try explain the situation to my parents and I’ve got so far as to actually saying that it’s MCS and that I would like some appreciation and pride in my achievements too. I’ve always been the smarter one in the family but interestingly it has always been used against me where my parents suggest that it is my doing to concnetrate solely on my studies that is leading to my youngest sisters’ failure at school. Well, I’ve tried to teach her yet she’s not interestes – I’m sure she’ll find something that she’s good at yet it will take time and some bloody independence. They gave me no support in my academical life yet expect so much from me in return when I can not emit such a great level of personal sacrifice. As with my brother, I have simply always been compared to him yet never to suggest that I have worked so much harder to get the results and achievements yet rather to suggest that I was showing off and that ultimately he knows better and always will. I have been very attention-seeking yet I needed it and well, I still don’t get it. And yes, like many have said here the middle children are far more career driven and I’ve just finished my AS levels and I know that I’m far more determined to get where I want and am so keen to move away – that’s because I know that my career will be the only thing that will help me create an identity and maybe even be appreciated by my family yet I doubt that it would happen since I don’t want to follow the career that they want me to – it is not for my well being that they say so yet rather to suffice their pride. The fallacy of equal love/support being given out is amusing to it’s core.

    1. IT’S SO OBVIOUS middle child kids are obviously the smarter ones my brain has well developed over my sisters even my eldest
      i got a B and my mother got mad because of course she expects more from me but my failing sisters get a C and we practically host a party

  17. I would also like to add that when I was younger…say maybe 14-16 years old…I thought that I was special because I was named after my mother. Since I have two sisters older than me…I asked my mother why she named me after her and she said “I ran out of names.” I use to think that this was funny…but it’s not.

    1. well that sucks I’m 12 and i can relate
      i was name Bianca because it means white and they think it’s humorous because I’m black
      while my eldest brittany named THAT because she was born their and thats my parents most favorite place in the WORLD and nadia means hope and they named her that because they were over joyed to have a third child clearly i wasn’t enough
      all of us
      her are BLACK SHEEPS and all of us here probly thought we were special for two seconds …i thought i was because my mother was told she couldn’t have another child and then had me but she didn’t want one but when the third came she was over joyed :(

  18. I call myself the “middle-middle” child. Not only am I the 5th child out of 7…I’m the 3rd daughter..(two older, two younger). I didn’t find out that I was the “black sheep” of the family until I was 11 years old. And by the time I was 13, I realized what that meant. It was only my mother who treated me like I had two heads without a brain in either one and therefore, my siblings treated me the same way.

  19. just knew about this syndrome and felt like crying…now i know why i’m like this.. i’m an achiever, always get good grades, everything i do worked out good, compared to others..and yes, i think i did that because that is all i can do to get the attention i needed from parents..im an intovert, like to be invisible..this is very negative..but that is me..
    i studied abroad at a very young age, and wanted to have my own family after studies..really depressed when my parents dont let me get marry, i felt like ‘u dont give me the attention i needed, but why did u stop others to give me attention?’ really depressesed.
    well, i have 3 older siblings and 3 younger thn me. u can imagine that..
    when i was a kid, i always think i was actually adopted.

  20. I agree, i do actually beleive i am hated, I have had some horrible things done to me that would never be considered done to my siblings

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