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Middle Child Syndrome


Middle Child Syndrome

Colman Noctor, a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at St. Patrick’s University Hospital, was recently on NewsTalk and joined Sean Moncrieff on the subject of ‘Middle Child Syndrome’.

He gave some parents with questions about their children’s behaviour problems advice in regard to their complexities and behavioural problems and how to understand what their children are going through.

Middle Child Syndrome is a condition that describe the feelings a middle child sometimes experience when they feel left out or neglected. Middle children often feel like this, because of older and younger siblings.

Older siblings are seen as achievers and the younger siblings are thought of as the babies in the family. This puts a middle child in the middle and they find themselves neither here nor there, and invisible.

Middle children will seek attention or become naughty so that they can find a way of becoming visible to the family. Middle children will misbehave to get attention, go with the flow, work as little as possible, be less parent-dependent than their siblings, become the ’loner’ of the family, not participate in family events unless told to, and play the peacemaker.

One caller was concerned with the way her almost 12-year-old daughter is behaving in the house. She has two other siblings, an older 13-year-old sister and younger 10-year-old brother. She wants to wear makeup and skimpy clothes, back chats her mom, eats too much sugary foods, won’t clean up her room, and rebels when told not to.

Colman’s advice in this regard was that mom learns to find the things about her middle daughter that she approves of and that she needs to find a way to deal with her daughter’s way of looking for attention by talking to her and finding out how she is doing.

One website says that Middle Child Syndrome is “where the older child gets all the awards, the younger gets all the love, and the middle gets nothing”. This is a stereotypical way of seeing the middle child, but there are of course those who never experienced any difficulties when growing up.

Sibling order and rivalry are factors that causes the middle child to “drive their parents nuts”. Favoritism and birthing order also encourages the phenomena of middle child syndrome.

There is prove that oldest children are born leaders, so that puts the second child in a position of competition from the very first day. The birthing order seem to play a role then, because the oldest child is a new experience, where the second child is the one who is easier to handle (that is until the baby replaces the baby).

Favoritism can also cause these inadequacies that middle children  experience, their parents might favor the others, like the 12-year-old’s mother who confesses that she is favoring her 10-year-old boy. Children pick up on these feelings and it is bound to impact on their behaviour patterns. He says: “Give her what she needs, not what she wants.”

Signs to watch out for if you are worried that your child might have middle child syndrome is low self-esteem, social withdrawal, narcissistic personality disorder, neediness, jealousy, irresponsibility, a tendency to be aggressive, a tendency to be shy or introverted, and feelings of being unseen and unheard.

There are ways to help your child if he or she is feeling low and left-out and it is advised that you try and help them sooner than later, because these problems can carry over in their teenage years and in later life.

Advice given to parents include: make them feel special; praise their achievements; help your middle child “make friends” with her baby siblings; help your child learn about “Time Sharing” her mommy; don’t let your middle child feel left out.

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