The Middle Child Myth

A debunking from a certified middle child


(Graphic by Olivia Kao)

Olivia Kao, Reporter

Firstborns have it the hardest. Middle-child syndrome is real. The last child is always spoiled.  We’ve all heard these common phrases about sibling birth orders, but just how viable are these statements?  

With seniors rounding the corner of the college process and the complementary sudden involvement of parents, peers, and mentors in the (very) stressful process that is applications, some kids with younger siblings may feel overlooked or forgotten, while the older siblings themselves feel waves of overwhelming stress and pressure.

As a middle-child myself, I often get asked questions like “Is it as bad as they say?” or something along the lines of “Do you ever feel forgotten?”.  I never quite understood why people would automatically assume my life was “bad,” until I started hearing about these stereotypes more and more often as I grew older.

As I would often hear friends, relatives, and even strangers talk about the ideas of sibling birth order and mental health, I began to ask myself if middle-child syndrome is real or not, and how valid it is to say that all middle children have the same stereotypical experiences.

Psychologists around the world have studied the validity behind middle-child syndrome, and have identified “symptoms” of being born in the middle of one’s siblings.  These include low self-esteem, attention-seeking, and rebelling against their parents, all of which give the impression that middle-children are over dramatic trouble-making rebels. While in some cases this might be true, it is certain that not all middle-children are attention-seeking instigators of mischief.  

Psychologists and researchers alike should take into consideration the various cultures, environments, and parenting styles kids grew up in before putting the blame of poor behavior on only birth order.

To put it simply, birth order certainly can affect the mental well-being of a child, but is not solely based on the fact of whether or not you are the oldest, middle, or youngest sibling.  

Rather, there are many other factors that lead to someone’s mental health, such as the culture and environment in which they grew up. In short, middle-child syndrome is nothing but a myth and should not be deemed a negative condition every middle-child suffers from.