Wholeness Healing Today

Middle or Second Child Syndrome

Exactly what is middle or second child syndrome? It is not a clinical syndrome, but it ties into the theory that birth order affects the development and personality of a child. Birth order is often believed to have a profound and lasting effect on psychological development. Middle child syndrome is the feeling of “exclusion” by middle children. It is easy to see how this happens. Often first children are more apt to receive undivided attention from the parents as the “only child” and then later receive privileges and responsibilities as the second one comes along. The youngest child is likely to receive indulgences, get the parents’ undivided attention also and appear to be a little spoiled and fussed over as he/she is the baby of the family.

A middle child may have a sense of being left out, feeling over-shadowed by the siblings and not feeling loved or cared for by his/her parents. The feelings that can come from this birth order placement may include negative feelings of emptiness, unworthiness, inadequacy and jealousy, all leading to low self-esteem and social isolation. Other symptoms may be attention seeking, extreme behaviors and/or trust issues. He/she may also become extremely demanding, striving for attention, especially from his/her parents. Along with this, the middle child may be very accommodating with everyone and so at times, may turn rebellious in minor things. (Arora, 2018)

As a parent, watch for the signs that your middle child may be feeling the birth order “squeeze”. Validate the feelings he/she may have and work on being aware of the dynamics playing out between the children. Parents know they love the middle child as much as the other children. However, it may take time to help the child really believe it and internalize it. Be patient, listen to his/her feelings, and spend more time connecting. Give him/her responsibilities so he/she feels part of the family and be very conscientious about not comparing your children to each other. (Arora, 2018)

There is a positive side of being a middle child. A middle child tends to be a good negotiator. Sandwiched between two siblings, the middle child learns to be more compromising with siblings and this skill generalizes to life later. He/she is also apt to be very fair and seek justice. Due to their own experience of a perceived “lack” of fairness while growing up, they may gravitate towards seeking justice. They are very aware and attuned and sympathize to the underdog in a situation. A middle child can also be a pioneer as he/she tends toward an open-mindedness and willingness to take risks. This makes the middle child a perfect candidate to be entrepreneurs, inventors and creators. (Griffin, 2012)

Being the 2nd in the birth order of six, I was curious about the impact my birth order may have had on me. I am aware that my own middle child does make reference to being the “middle child”. As parents, you may want to pay attention to your middle child and work to make sure he/she feels he/she has impact in the family in a very positive way with his/her own unique characteristics that only he/she can own and bring to the family. If you are a middle child, you may want to be aware of how this has impacted your life.

Works Cited:

Arora, M. (2018, June 6). Middle child syndrome – signs and tips to prevent it. Retrieved from www.parenting.firstcry.com: https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/middle-child-syndrome-signs-and-tips-to-prevent-it/

Griffin, L. (2012, Oct 18). The secret powers of middle children. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/field-guide-families/201210/the-secret-powers-middle-children

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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