Is “Middle Child Syndrome” Really a Thing?


As we get closer and closer to meeting our new baby boy, I look at my other two sons and I wonder…

How is the introduction of a new baby brother going to change them? How will the dynamic of our family change?

Only time will tell, I know, but I can’t imagine there will be any drastic changes. When our second came along, he sort of just fit in with what we were already doing. There will be a learning curve of having a new baby in the house, sure, but I think that we’ll adapt to a routine that he sort of just…fits into.

But I wonder how his introduction to our family will change his brothers.

Our oldest will be a few weeks away from turning seven when the baby arrives. He’s gregarious, outspoken, dramatic, and has the most sensitive heart for people.

Our current youngest will be four in June. He’s all mischief. He’s our little “evil genius,” as we call him. He tends toward shyness in public, more so than his brother, but once he’s comfortable, he turns into the class clown.

And both of them are 100% boy. Daredevils who imagine themselves to be superheros or Ninja Turtles all the time.

So when their baby brother comes, how will they change?

I haven’t done a ton of study on birth order, but I do know a little bit. Enough to know that I’m most curious (and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit a little nervous) about my soon-to-be middle child. The one who’s full of mischief.

I wonder if he’ll spend the rest of his years suffering from “middle child syndrome.” According to this article from MSNBC, middle children spend their lives vying for attention and resentful of their siblings and parents.

But I wonder if that has as much to do with parenting style as it does with the actual birth order.

On the flip-side, this article from NPR talks about perks of being a middle child– that the lack of pressure on the child from the parent allows the child to discover their own talents and excel. They can become expert listeners and negotiators and develop keen skills in the business world.

Perhaps middle child syndrome isn’t a real thing at all.

Perhaps it is. Anyone watch this past week’s episode of Downton Abbey? Poor Edith and her horrible case of middle child syndrome. She does seem desperate for attention and resentful of her siblings. She’s also made some pretty poor choices in her life and hasn’t always been the most loving sister…

I’m the oldest child of three in my family. My husband is the oldest child of three in his family.

I suppose I ought to do an unofficial survey of our middle siblings and see what they think.

For now, I’ll leave it to you.

Share with me: What do you think about Middle Child Syndrome? As a parent or a middle child yourself, how does middle child syndrome affect that child, the family, and how can parents be better aware of it?

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10 responses to “Is “Middle Child Syndrome” Really a Thing?

  1. A few people warned me about the middle child syndrome when i was expecting my third, but in our family there is no such thing as the middle child is the only girl. Many of my friends have three kids, and I don’t think that their middle children are any worse off. I think it’s important to have some one to one time with every child and everything would be ok-)

  2. We have one girl, then three, THREE, 3 boys. So, the second boy is sorta the middle child. But i we looked at drive, perfectionism and over all “I will WIN!!” attitude, it’s him.
    I’m the middle child in our family and I’m also classic Type B. You, know, the “meh, whatever” type who just meanders along. Unless it’s Scrabble time. Then I will SLAY all opponents!!!

  3. I’m the middle child. I have an older sister and younger brother and while every child at one time or another feels jealous of a sibling or envious of a parent’s time for another child, I never resented for felt the need to compete for time and attention. Young children tend to go through some jealous feelings. I was 2 when my brother was born and my mom said one morning while rocking him, I bit him. 🙂 But mostly I remember being protective over him and watching out for him.

  4. I am the middle child of 5. There were times I felt a little overwhelmed with being the middle. Just because it was always kind of attention to others etc. So there is that natural feeling of, “Darn, I wanted to go first.” But there is also the perks of being a middle child.

    I think that it is honestly all in the parenting. If you are showing unending love to one child and less the other, of course the one is going to feel left out. I think the main point is to love all of them and show you love all of them. And hopefully they will all learn to love each other too and become the best of friends. It’s hard to feel jealous all the time of the people who are your buddies and always sticking up for you. 🙂

  5. It’s real, and it needs to be fought with deliberate action and understanding.

    The firstborn carries our ambitions; the youngest carries our heart.

    The middle child carries the luggage.

  6. Loved reading this post! Our youngest is a bit of an “evil genius” too. Haha! Read that to my hubby and he laughed! I am the youngest, so I have no expertise, but brothers have a way of bonding. Even when they are polar opposites like mine. 🙂 So excited you are expanding your brood!

  7. Marie Durham

    I’m a middle child. I have some overachiever tendencies about me. I don’t have nay resentment of my siblings or parents. There was four years between both of my “bookends” and have heard one study that says that much space between siblings almost reboots you to being an only child temperament. I’m also the only girl -which may have changed the dynamic a little. I would say I am a pretty good negotiator and compromiser. I wouldn’t worry too much. Life will change with a new one-but I think you are a great mama. You’ll give both your older boys the time, attention, nurturing, and fun they need while they adjust to a new baby. I don’t think you have anything to worry about. But I must say- I do sympathize with Edith. She may have been horrible to spread the (true) gossip about her sister – but let’s not forget that Mary us pretty self absorbed – even now she cares more about her house than her melodramatic husband (sorry Matthew was being a total drama queen) and did act very unladylike letting that Turkish diplomat into her room. All poor Edith wants is a man to spend time with-whether old or a poor farmer-she doesn’t care. I think I’d feel for her even if I wasn’t a middle child. Oh-did your studies say middle children get way to caught up in tv fiction? ; ).

  8. I hope you’re feeling better, Jennifer! I was very sick with my twins at the end of my pregnancy (I didn’t have a voice the day they were born!).

    Our situation is a little unique because we went from having two girls (ages 3 & 7) when our twin boys were born. My second daughter is the outgoing, charming, silly one of the bunch and I thought she’d breeze through with no troubles being the “middle” child – but I was wrong. She had more trouble adjusting than I’d expected. The twins were (are) intense and in so many ways, I feel like she was left in the dust. I try hard to pay special attention to her, and I fully believe that parenting skills are important to help navigate the waters for the middle child, but much of it is out of our hands and we just need to guide them to see life in the proper perspective.

    Good luck! Just thinking about these things ahead of time is a great sign that everyone will fit into their place in your home.

  9. I have two sisters and am a middle child too. Unfortunately I’ve heard, and consequently googled, the syndrome too. But I don’t think it applies to everyone, or anyone. It has more to do with the family dynamics than anything else.
    I was, in fact, so sick of everyone throwing the theory in my face, I’ve written about it in one of my posts to really express my view and feelings. My sister’s been watching Downtown Abbey and I can’t even get myself to watch that because it’s just re-establishing the Middle Child Syndrome, and as a middle child, I find that pretty annoying.
    Your second son will, in fact, going by my experience, be in a better position than the other two, being closer in age to both of them. Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll all get along fabulously. Good luck!

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