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 too am a middle child-smack dab in the center of 5. not 1st born, not 1st son and not the baby. any parent who claims to love all thier children the same–DON”T know thier children very well. as i now approach the age of 60 i can honestly say—that when my mother says she loves me—it’s out of guilt…and i have told her so, the reaction i get from her tells me i’m correct…. so glad i never brought any children into this world!

  2. I have to say I think middle child syndrome is a pretty good excuse for some people. Makes you feel like you have the right to make people feel terrible when the problem lies with you.
    Perhaps you need to take a good hard look at yourselves and stop being so pathetic and self pitying when you actually have a family, even if they’re not as perfect as you’d like them to be.

  3. I am the middle child, all very close in age, one brother 12 months older than me, one brother 14 months younger than I. Maybe it was because we are so close in age that I don’t feel or experience any of these traits. I was never “neglected” and actually received the most praise out of the three. I hold no resentments nor feel any sort of sibling rivalry, maybe I am a weird case, but I think that middle child syndrome is a bit farfetched

  4. Im a middle child with an older sister and younger brother both within two years of age. My mom is a single parent who works very hard and definitely feel the “middle child syndrome.” My sister goes out with friends all the time and has her boyfried around 24/7. my brother gets babied and lots of gifts and attention. Im just told to keep my grades up and focus on getting to college. Ive even been forgotten to be picked up from school several time and i just feeled left out a lot. especially around my siblings because they look like twins im the opposite of their physical appearance. is anger management issues part of middle child syndrome too?

  5. It is so sad for me to read all these comments. I have three sons – 5, 3, and 5mo and my middle son is strong willed and throws a tantrum whenever he doesn’t get his own way. I love on him all the time, I want to meet his needs so badly, and when I read it seems an impossible task!

    1. Just know that the middle child may tend to be the best or worst depending on what he is praised for. You seem like a good mother.

  6. I’m a mother of three young ladies. My Second born seems to be stearing in the wrong direction , I give ALL three of my girls my undivided attention but she seems to think that they get more , i agree with “ananymous” we can try as hard as we can but it’s never enough. I will take only her out for a drive and laughter , I have tried so many things. Now she is acting out in school , grades falling and just being a baby jerk sometimes . I LOVE my girls with everything in me . I hope one day she will see that i try hard with all three. Some people say it’s all about attention , I believe that to a certain degree , some kids have more knowledge than most adults . I try not to make excuses for none of them . I just want my baby girl to know i love her and to release some of that anger in a positive way .

  7. I am the eldest of 4 girls and must admit I have always been seen as the ‘golden child’. Both middle sisters however, do appear to suffer middle child syndrome in different ways. One of them is extremely introvert spending most of her time in her bedroom and very rarely socialising and the other one a complete extrovert and possibly even promiscuous it seems. She is always lying and creating trouble wherever she goes. She is very cared for and equally loved within our family and in no way does this reflect her upbringing or has she been excluded. This is what has lead me to search for ‘middle child syndrome’ and I do feel it’s very appropriate for the situation, surely it can’t be purely coincidence that so many people experience this.
    Though, I personally feel that who you are is solely dependent on yourself, you can either learn from a negative situation and be a better person for your experiences or you can let other people dictate who you are and determine your own future, that’s your choice :-)

  8. I’m a middle child and i could care less if my parents gave me enough attention. sure i may be emotionally stunted but hey at least i dont have mommy and daddy issues. im not a well rounded child but i know to be true to my self and not complain about being a middle child for the rest of my life and annoy all those around me. I define myself as Emily, not the middle child.

    1. for the sake of argument I’ll assume you mean you “couldn’t care less”. sounds like you have anger issues the way you talk there, which I’m pretty sure fits right in to the middle child thing as I am pretty much the same and also a middle child. You’ve taken your emotions and used them to make yourself fiercely independent of your parents, maybe your entire family. I, for one, haven’t spoken to either of my parents in years and don’t really care if I ever speak to them again. I’m content to live my own life without their involvement.

      1. As a middle child I had the opportunity to fly below the radar of a narcissistic environment. I had no choice but to become my own person early in life. My older and younger siblings are still trying to find themselves later in life. As for me…middle is good.

  9. you shouldn’t define yourself my your family, you should make up who you are in life don’t let anyone define you besides you

  10. I am the mother of three girls and, while I believe that there are some parents who ignore their middle child, I am not one of them. However, my middle daughter thinks I do. It doesn’t matter how much attention my daughter gets, it’s never enough. I know she’s jealous of her sisters. We try very hard to give equal attention but it’s not always easy. We make sure they all have equal gifts at birthdays and Holidays. If we take one out for a treat, I make sure the others do as well. But the oldest will always be the oldest and will get to do things first. And the baby will always be the baby. The problem is most kids don’t remember their early years and the attention they received as babies, toddlers and preschoolers is the same as their baby siblings are receiving now. I just find it very frustrating as a parent that I can’t make my daughter see how much we love her.

    1. If you are not a middle child then you really want feel what your daughter is feeling. I understand what she is going through.

    2. She probably isn’t jealous of her sisters. My mother told everyone I was jealous of my younger brother. Far from it, I just didn’t like him because having anything to do with him got me into a load of trouble and often a trashing before bed.

      No doubt you love your daughter, maybe just not as much as the other two and you’re not aware of it.

  11. Middle child. 40 and still a middle adult

    single. A problem ….

    I feel an strong emotional connection to my family. Always needing to please my mom and dad.

    My mom is a middle child as well…. gosh.

    – Always in my business of whom I date and why

    Always never giving me faith to suceed in the workplace.

    when I do succeed it is never good enough for my sister and baby brother. Always getting my sister out of abusive relationships. My brothers’ wifes’ family treats me like garbage. why?


    be well fellow middle children

  12. I’m the middle SISTER. I learned early on where my place was, taking care of everyone. Even now, as a adult with a grown daughter and 2 boys still at home, my family never includes me in anything. My daughter and her husband goes on vacation with my younger sister & her family and they are constantly hiding it! WHY? It’s not if i would invite myself or not be able to afford it. I act like it doesn’t bother me but deep down it hurts. They have always treated me this way, you would think I would be use to it by now. All i can do is make sure i treat my 3 children all the same and make sure i don’t allow it to go on around me

  13. I’m a middle child, and most definitely the ‘black sheep’ of the family. I’m much closer to my friends than I am my family. I get on great with all of my family, but I didn’t get the attention my older brother and younger sister did, so I took to making my business my business, I’m pretty much a mystery where my family is concerned, almost unknowable. I don’t tell them about my personal and private life. I think this could stem from when I was a kid, feeling as though nothing I did got me the same love as my siblings, so I decided to go it alone.

    I didn’t do as well in school as my brother or sister, but left school early and started my own business, and am the most successful of my family.

    I’m 30 years old now, for years my old family home had lots of pictures of my siblings, with not one single picture of me anywhere, until I mentioned it, only then was a picture of me put up.

    I don’t feel I was unloved, just passed over, unconsciously, by my parents.

    1. I agree with you Gary. I was out of our family home at 16 years of age. I have never asked my parents for money since I walked out the door. The same can not be said of my two siblings. I also feel like the blacksheep in my family and march to my own drummer. I tend to do things on my own and have friends who are the ones that I confide in.

      My husband is also a middle child. He also is the blacksheep of his family. We both are the most self sufficient in our families and rely on ourselves. We have raised two successful children. Twins.

      I think the positive of being a middle child is that it makes you the achiever. My husband and I both agree on that point. In both of our cases the grandparents took no measures to hide their favortism towards the oldest and the youngest. I feel that it actually made my siblings feel entitled.

      I wouldn’t change positions in my family…I may be the outsider looking in, but I like that I am the do it on my own type of person and feel that I can achieve anything that I put my mind to.

      Sometimes it is hurtful to feel like the outsider, but then I think of who it has made me and how it had a positive effect on both my husband’s and my parenting skills and push those hurtful thoughts aside.

      I’m 51 years old now….and I have to laugh to myself that the birth order stigma is still very much in play….

      Being the middle child has made me who I am, and I like me. I see the same in your post Gary…..hats off to us middle children!

  14. middle child aswell i seem to have that tendancy of over achieving in all i do i to see it as positive, but i am also very competitive and i feel the need to be the best at anything and will go to almost any lengths to achieve my goal and am the meaning of introvercy, where my gf who is also a middle child has swong completely the the other way she is all the signs that i am not

  15. One older brother (the golden boy) and a younger brother (the baby) and I’m just that mistake taking up space in the middle. They have to tolerate me becase they had to suffer through me to get to the baby. They can do no wrong, say no wrong. My whole life, no one has paid any attention to me. I especially love how I can be talking and the person I’m talking to will just start talking to someone else as if I’m not even there, let along holding a conversation with them. I’ve always felt invisible. My sis in law says i’m insecure and have low self esteem. You think? I can’t imagine why.

    1. hi lance , im quite taken back by your comment only last night i was discussing with my elder sister these issues, so i thought i would pop on line to see what is being said (as i am waiting to see a psychologist) but all said and done i always felt a failure and had the blame for everything, i am the 3rd child of four.i left home at 13 and lived with the father of my children i was having a baby at 15 so when i look back maybe my mother couldn’t wait for me to leave home!!!! what i didn’t expect to see on the research was just how i felt and maybe the blame lied with me but quite astounding that all that is mentioned above is exactly how it was for me like a text book , but my sisters actually do see that i was treated differently to them but that is now some 43 years later and it has very much been a lonely life for me and this also followed into my children s lives where my mum took no interest in mine but had my younger sisters child every day so i feel your comment was a bit harsh really its like having a baby UNLESS YOU HAVE EXPIRE INCED IT YOU CAN NOT COMMENT tc ty for listening

  16. i to am a middle child i have a older sister that is about to graduate and my mom and dad are always paying more attention to her then me. Like when she went to visit a college in seattle i had to go to my grandma’s. when they came back to get me they said they went to this really fancy restraunt

  17. I too am a middle child of a very unstable mother and a an enabler father. I was only wanted so my older sibling was not “alone” and not for myself. I was followed by another sibling 11 months later!
    I was told that God brought this sibling so soon to save my mother from the horror of my birth (which was simply almost natural childbirth but in the 50s women were completely knocked out! I was the Cindarella. I had to cook, clean the dishes, feed my mom’s pets (6 of them) each night. Everything the other 2 did I was blamed for and because I did not favor my sick mother’s family she degraded me for simply being me (skinny to her fat self). I tried very hard not be noticed by her – who would want that kind of attention! I disliked her very much and thought my father was a coward for not having her commited! But I survived and am the most real one of the bunch. I am very independent and capable.
    I do not have a good relationship with my siblings but that is because I will not tell them how very wonderful they are – and they aren’t!!!! So no I won’t agree with them. I am waiting for my father to pass away (he’s very elderly) so I can move far away and lose contact with both my sick siblings!!! My only child already has
    left the family (besides me) because of how they are. They feel they are so perfect (no matter what they do!) and we are the lesser ones, but we know we are good people and just don’t want to play by THEIR rules. Hang in there middle children – we are usually the most real and capable! More power to us.

  18. I too am a middle child. two older sisters and two younger brothers (leave your sister’s alone or that is not for girls) Teased and laughed at while growing up if I tried to share I felt unloved. I feel now I am the Little Red Hen and I take care of myself. Not always doing the best but I know I cannot depend on anyone for help. I also now tell people I am the most well balanced of the kids being the middle child (tho I still feel alone and unloved). I know if this was shared with them I would still be laughed at and I am 46yo.

    1. I’m 50, when I raised this issue with my family a few years ago I got total denial followed by ridicule telling me not to be pathetic etc. Nobody in your family will step out of their comfort zone to give you any kind of closure you need to do that for yourself. John

  19. Middle child too. trying to take all those things positively. Sometimes I’m glad I’m not spoilt or else who know what type of person will I be? Undependable and useless

  20. My name is Jessie. I’m a middle child, and I’m thirteen years old. I have an older brother, 18, and a younger sister, 10.
    I have felt like the Unloved Middle Child since I was six.
    My brother got a laptop when he was 11.
    When i turned 11, I got a bunch of crappy, hand-me-down t-shirts.
    when my sister turns 11, she’s told my mom that she wants the iPhone 5. My mother promised to give it to her. I still have a basic phone. My brother got a 2,000 dollar laptop last year, and his old onewas given ti my sister.
    I feel like I don’t even exist. I’m too embarrassed to have friendsover because my room, that was dome when I eas five, is Disney princess themed. I do all the chores, I feel as if I’m just their personal slave. My brother can’t even get his own water, so I have to. I had to take up the hobby of carving into my wrists and forearms before they even noticed me. I feel so unloved, so unappreciated… so forgotten. It’s not okay to have been feeling this way since I was 7. I’ve actually thought about calling child services to take me away… but deep down, I fo love them… I’ve thought about running away, but they’d find me, and probably put a chain around my ankle to keep their little slave locked away… I’ve felt this way for so long… my whole family finds it funny to verbally abuse me, and they all laugh when someone cracks a joke about my weight, even though I’ve been starving myself… i feel so lonely… The only person I can confide in is my best friend, Nat, who doesnt have parents, so she sort of knows the feeling of neglect… i feel like i don’t belong… I’m just their little slave girl who will never amount to anything.
    My daddy who promised he’d always love me, doesn’t. He won’t even hug me anymore. I don’t remember the last time he told me he loved me… but he hugs my sister. He’ll scoop her fat little butt up and let her sit on his lap, and he tells her he loves her.
    My mom, doesn’t even care. She just orders me around, and if I dont do exactly as she says, she starts to scream at me. If I don’t have all A’s, at all times, she whips me wih the fly swatter, however, my sister can make all F’s and no one cares. I hate my life… i was crying as I typed this….

    1. i am also a middle child, take the good things from it.. as middle children we tend to do better in life and are more successuful ( i am the only one who went to uni), as we have to go the extra mile for attention we are good at pushing ourselves while the eldest and youngest get things thrown at their feet, when you are older and work you will be used to the work load while your signings will find it very hard, get into good practice early with the demands of parents and work when your older is a lot easier, maybe speak to a school councilor or a doctor about the self harm, it defanlty isn’t the way to go no matter how much it helps now, it doesn’t resolve the problem. your parents will eventually see that they have neglected you and will try to over compensate for this.. though youwil have to stick with it for now, when they make jokes, laugh with them, they are jokes and not meant to be hurtful, if not, just say with a straight face and dull voice tone ‘i dont find that funny’ and walk away, they will either laugh or see what they are doing wrong, if they laugh.. i know its hard, but just take it, at 13 years old.. if you are doing as well as you say in school you only have 4 more years until you can move out for uni, so far uni has been the best thing for me as i am myself and i dont have family pressures. if you want to talk more about this email me at JADE_R94@hotmail.com

    2. Jessie – you are a very smart and wonderful person. It is hard to think that parents don’t see this. Sometimes children feel that it is obvious and parents should be smart and realize what they are doing or aren’t doing to their kids, but I have found that it is sadly not happening. Parents need to take classes on how to be involved and how to provide the love and support they can give to their children. What I see in you is a true desire and ability to be heard. This may sound like a reverse of roles, but you need to ask your parents when they have time to talk to you about something serious going on in your life that they really need to sit down and make time for. This will actually worry them a bit and cause many things to go through their minds. Once you have their attention, you need to let them know how you feel. It would be very effective to have a list of thoughts or bullet points that you want to share with them so they know you have really put a lot of thought into this. A good way to begin is to begin with, “I have some things I want to first share with you and I really need you to listen and hear what I have to say because they are serious to me. Once I am done, you can say what you need to say, but I hope you first listen to me.” Then let them know what you are going through, when it started, what it has caused you to do and think and that you want to change and be better, but in order to do that, you need to be loved, supported, nurtured and recognized. It will be an awe and crap moment for them. When I say that you need to change or want to change, what I am saying is that you don’t want to feel that you are not loved and that you don’t want to feel that you are abused in a certain way and have to do things to get their attention.

      Another thing that is crucial is to never take the “woe is me” approach. Be strong and powerful and know that having and understanding of your surroundings and the treatment you are getting is very important. Then understanding why they really treat you that way is another. Then to understand that you are of self worth and have a lot to accomplish and be happy for and that you won’t let other’s dictate your happiness. You are in control and are powerful. As you get older, if you do this and build up your character to make it stronger, you will be very successful in life and be able to accomplish a lot more things. Be the bigger person and know that this will help you.

      I truly hope you take the time to understand that people are just sometimes stupid and ignorant and need to be taught. Its just this time, these people happen to be your parents and they may just not realize what they are doing. That is how stupid many of us are and we need people like you to be patient and allow us to also grow and learn and be better so we can all progress in life. Learning and applying is what allows us to progress. Understand what I am saying?

    3. jessie, that is just like me. i feel like i am invisible. like my older sister turned 15 she got a phone and when i turned even 16 i still don’t have a phone even if i do what my mom or dad says all the time. I DO HAVE MIDDLE CHILD SYNDROME !!!!!!!!!!! :(

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