Middle Child Syndrome

What is middle child syndrome?

Middle child syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that usually affects the middle child in family with three siblings, especially when they are all born close together. The middle child often feels neglected because more attention is payed to the youngest and oldest children [1].

Image result for middle child syndrome


Middle child often feel left out. The oldest child usually gets new things and is allowed more, because they are older. But the youngest child is often the “baby” of the family and they get more attention. The role of a middle child often leads to a variety of characteristics and symptoms. There have been two possible causes described for middle child syndrome:

  • Identity crisis- the child is not able to understand their own personality since their personality often emerges from how they perceive the oldest sibling. Middle child often wants to be different from their siblings.
  • Lack of emotional support- if too much attention is given to the most common favorites-youngest and oldest child, the middle child feels left behind. Feeling unloved often leads to attitude that could draw attention- either positive or negative [2].


The most commonly seen symptoms and characteristics of middle child syndrome are:

  • Low self-esteem. Middle child might feel like they are never noticed and develop low self-esteem that can severely affect their life. Small children often ask for help when doing something they already know how to do, in order to get attention. Also later in life these people downplay their abilities. Also see battered woman syndrome.
  • Jealousy. It is very common in families with three children that one of the parents bonds more with the oldest child, while the other bonds with the youngest. This leaves the middle child with a feeling of loneliness and often leads to jealousy. The middle child often resents the oldest and youngest child. In some cases the middle child can express themselves with anger and aggression towards others.
  • Feeling empty. Also see antimotivational syndrome.
  • Feeling inadequate. Middle children often feel like they are not capable of great things. People suffering from middle child syndrome rarely set great goals for themselves.
  • Unfriendliness-middle child often feels unconfident and shy, and that makes hard for them to gain friends. Low self-esteem and introvert tendencies also play a big role when making friends.
  • Introvert tendencies- middle child often feels insecure and prefers to keep to themselves [3].

Related disorders

There are no clinical studies that prove that being the middle child has relation to other psychological disorders. Still, being the middle child can lead to severe personality issues. Middle child syndrome can lead to depressions, anxiety, low self-esteem or body image disorders (see night eating syndrome). However, these disorders are often multifactorial and can be explained by different causes. Because of their unique position in the family, middle children are often successful leaders and conflict solvers. They are excellent at working with different types of people. Also some studies find that middle children are usually the happiest in marriage [4].

middle child syndrome


The first step of dealing with middle child syndrome is to recognize the problem. Parents need to be aware that this situation might be present, especially when kids are close in age. Middle child syndrome can be prevented by giving equal attention to all the children, as well as taking some extra time to listen to the needs of the middle child [5].

If you find this article helpful, share it on social media. For your comments and personal experience use the comments box below.


  1. About middle child syndrome: 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. Causes of middle child syndrome: http://middlechildpersonality.com/middle-child-syndrome/
  3. Characteristics of middle child syndrome: http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15912/1/Middle-Child-Syndrome.html
  4. Effects of being the middle child: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/field-guide-families/201210/the-secret-powers-middle-children
  5. Management of middle child syndrome: http://www.everydayfamily.com/the-middle-child-syndrome/?pg=2&internallink=the-middle-child-syndrome#post-1968

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *