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Middle Child Birth Order Myths and Stereotypes

By HERWriter
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myths and stereotypes about middle children and birth order Andy Dean Photography/PhotoSpin

Is there really a “middle child syndrome”? Does birth order really make all that difference? Are middle children really, truly neglected and forgotten compared to older or younger siblings? Or are all these just stereotypes with no real foundation except common acceptance in today’s society?

We seem so eager to come up with a name or syndrome to describe the apparent difficulties and struggles our kids have, but we don’t have to turn everything into a negative.

Some famous middle children include Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony and Madonna.

Catherine Salmon, Ph.D., and Katrin Schumann address some of these concepts in their book, "The Secret Power of Middle Children".

Common Stereotypes about Middle Children

“Middle child syndrome” is applied when middle children appear to be:

• Neglected

• Overlooked

• Resentful

• Not ambitious or driven to achieve

• Pessimistic, cynical or negative

• Not talkative or outgoing

• Left out and feeling like they don’t belong – think of Lisa in "The Simpsons"

The Realities of Middle Children

As Salmon and Schumann describe, middle children are:

• Great team players

• Social beings

• More cooperative

• More trusting in friendships

• Successful leaders (52 percent of American presidents have been middles)

• More independent

• Able to think more creatively

• Not influenced by pressure to be the same as everyone else

• More empathetic

As for ambition, middles have it, too, but just in different areas than firstborns. Middles tend to focus on subjects and issues that have to do with justice and fairness, rather than earning power or prestige which firstborns seem to go after.

Because middles are in between, they’re also able to see all sides of a question or issue and can become successful problem-solvers in a lot of situations.

“Middles have lower self-esteem than other birth orders because of their lack of uniqueness and attention at home—but this can actually be positive as they don’t have huge egos. Also, self-esteem is not as critical as our society believes.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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