Middle child syndrome

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Middle child syndrome is the feeling of exclusion by middle children,[1] due directly to their placement in their family's birth order. This alleged effect is supposed to occur because the first child is more prone to receiving privileges and responsibilities (by virtue of being the oldest), while the youngest in the family is more likely to receive indulgences. The second child (or middle child) no longer has their status as the baby and is left with no clear role in the family,[2] or a feeling of being "left out".[3] There is notably often a negative connotation surrounding the term "middle child syndrome." It is debated whether the family dynamic imposes this negative attitude or if middle children develop it themselves, or if it exists at all. Currently, the APA dictionary defines it as a hypothetical condition, with no reliable evidence showing a strong correlation on the psychological impacts of birth order.[4]

When thinking about the theory of birth order and the studies that have been done it is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. Many similar theories regarding birth order seek to classify and box in personality aspects of individuals based on birth order. However, in recent years some have noted that family dynamics have changed in that there are often larger gaps between children, there are merged families with step-siblings as well as blended families because of adoption. All of these factors can affect the way siblings view themselves within the family group.[5]


Alfred Adler (1870–1937), was an Austrian psychiatrist and worked closely with Sigmund Freud and founded the school of individual psychology. Specializing in inferiority complex, Adler was a pioneer in psychology as the first to theorize that birth order influences personality. He also believed that birth order had a lasting impact on an individual's methods of coping with stress and problem solving skills in adulthood. Adler's theory revolves around the nuclear family structure, with both parents present in the children's lives, an average space between siblings, and excluding extenuating circumstances such as the birth of twins, a tragedy in the family, or the occurrence of step-siblings. Adlerian researchers take a more modern approach of studying birth order today, in which they move away from studying the phenomenon of birth order traits in favor of studying the effects of birth order on Style of Life.


  1. ^ Bracy, Earl E.; Alexander, Tyesha (2013). The Middle Generation Syndrome: (A Throw Away Society). Dorrance Publishing. pp. 145–146. ISBN 978-1-4809-0008-0.
  2. ^ Gore, Janet L.; Amend, Edward R. (2007). A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children. Great Potential Press. pp. 197–198. ISBN 978-0-910707-52-7.
  3. ^ Kotin, Joel (1995). Getting Started: An Introduction to Dynamic Psychotherapy. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 46. ISBN 1-56821-451-0.Guarendi, Raymond N. (1985). You're a Better Parent Than You Think!: A Guide to Common-Sense Parenting. Prentice Hall Press. p. 83. ISBN 0-671-76595-7.
  4. ^ "APA Dictionary of Psychology". dictionary.apa.org. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  5. ^ Applefield, James M. (2014-02-10), "Birth Order", Encyclopedia of Special Education: A Reference for the Education of Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Disabilities and Other Exceptional Individuals, Encyclopedia of Special Education, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., doi:10.1002/9781118660584.ese0340, ISBN 9781118660584