Is there a Middle Child Syndrome?

Julie - posted on 04/05/2010 ( 7 moms have responded )




I always hear about the middle child syndrome and lately my 4-year-old who is the middle child has been giving me a lot of attitude and lip. I don't know if this is associated with being the middle child but I don't want to treat her in such a way that will 'create' this middle child if you know what I mean. It's a growing fear in the back of my mind...


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Vicky - posted on 03/31/2013




I have three children, the eldest a girl (8), then two boys (7 & 4). I have been aware of how being the middle child has affected my older boy ever since my younger boy was born. However, this does not make it any easier. My older boy gets lots of attention, he has his own activities that he does with my husband, he is academically amazing, he can make friends, he loves music etc etc. However, he is a desperately unhappy child.

He pushes boundaries, is extremely defiant, he picks on the younger boy, he dotes on the older girl, he is constantly moaning that things aren't fair. I spend every ounce of my day trying to ensure that all are treated fairly, disciplined the same, have time with me, have time with their Dad, etc etc etc. Of course, it's exhausting, and I find myself at the end of my tether with him and I snap and lose my temper.....therefore the cycle continues. The family dynamic is deeply affected by his behaviour and he's clever enough to realise this. That doesn't help.

He is quite introverted. He doesn't come across well to others, and yet, of course, his older and younger sibling are charming, funny, and comfortable in their skin. Therefore other family members (Grandparents etc) and family friends tend to spend more time with the other two.....therefore the cycle continues again.

He doesn't seem to like who he is at all. He has a very low opinion of himself. He's only 7....

I could cope with it all, apart from the fact that he is obviously so desperately unhappy. I love him so much, but his behaviour makes it difficult for me to show him sometimes. I have tried everything....letting his bad behaviour go, disciplining him, trying to see beyond his behaviour and trying getting him to talk, not tolerating his behaviour and punishing him. To be honest, I'm not sure what to do next. He can't express his unhappiness.

He is the loveliest, sweetist boy when he's on form. I fully accept that as his parents we play a fundamental part in his unhappiness. What can I do to try to turn this around. I worry for him.

Any advice appreciated.

Terri - posted on 04/06/2010




try googling "birth order" or something similar. You might get some ideas of how to combat it. It really does happen, (in some families) but as you are aware already, it will not be as much of a deal as it could have been (if it were to happen in your family at all anyway). Don't beat yourself up. All kids give the attitude at some point and at 4 years old they get a testosterone rush that makes some kids go nuts for a while. My eldest was a nightmare at 4 and fine now at 5! Hope you get the answers you are looking for... best wishes

[deleted account]

I am a middle child and never felt whatever I'm suppose to feel with the middle child syndrome. I have an older brother and sister and two younger brothers. The only time I felt something was up was when we all were at the table, my older siblings were talking to each other and my younger brothers were talking to each other and I didn't have anyone to talk to. But other then that simple little moment in time, no other "quirks" about being a middle child. The fun thing is that I can hang out with the older kids, but I could also be the boss of the little kids. Not bad if you ask me.

I also have a 4yr old and she has so much attitude, it's funny sometimes (and sometimes not). I'm sure your middle child is just enjoying being 4. Treat her like you'd treat her other siblings, it will be ok.

Sharon - posted on 04/06/2010




Middle child syndrom is something created by either ignorant parents or middle kids who don't want to accept responsibility for their actions.

I don't have a middle child. I have my younger son, my daughter and my oldest son.

Gwen - posted on 04/06/2010




I think it has more to do with her age, and asserting her independence, than being a middle child.

Lucy - posted on 04/06/2010




I totally agree with Joanna- middle child syndrome does exist, but it is the result of parenting that falls short of the mark rather than something that just automatically happens.

I myself am a middle child and never felt left out or less loved than my older brother or younger sister. I guess as my mum was one of five kids she was always aware that it is important to treat all her children equally, and she did a great job at it.

If you are aware enough of the potential problem to post on here about it, I very much doubt it is a problem you will have. Just carry on dividing your love and attention equally between your three little ones, I expect your daughter is just going through a tricky phase!

Firebird - posted on 04/05/2010




I am a classic example of middle child syndrome. It's caused by the parents being too involved with the older an younger siblings and not making enough time for the middle child, or excluding them in other ways.

For example, when I was about 8 years old my parents bought a bottle from the liquor store and since it was xmas time, they also bought one of those teddies. They gave it to my little brother, he;s the youngest, perfectly OK. The next week they bought another teddy and gave it to my sister. OK that's fair, she is the oldest. Third week in a row they bough a liquor store teddy and gave this one to.... my brother again. Now my sis has one, my bro has two and I didn't get one. I cried so my sister. always on the ball, offered me hers without a second thought. I thanked her but refused, saying that I already got her hand-me-down clothes, I don't want hand-me-down love too. From an 8 year old! Pretty sad, eh? A series of events like this made me quite bitter toward my family for a long time. I was a rotten teenager who felt neglected and unloved.

It is very real, although it's not likely to set in too heavily at the age of 4. Treat all of your children fairly and equally and you should easily be able to avoid middle child syndrome. If 2 of your kids get a teddy, make sure they all get a teddy. It isn't something that just happens, it's something that parents create. Don't be afraid of it, just don't let it happen. You are in control 100%.

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