If you have siblings, do you think your relation to them helped shape your personality? For example, if you're an oldest sibling, did that impact you while growing up? Do you think there are certain things that oldest siblings experience because of the role they fill?
Many people do, with specific traits being associated with certain birth order positions. The traits of oldest and youngest siblings are pretty broadly known, but what about the middle sibling? Why do they often get forgotten in discussions like these?
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There's no denying the fact that there are differences between siblings. Not just because every person is unique but because the oldest, middle, and youngest siblings all have differing experiences that only another person in that same birth order would understand. Oldest siblings from two different families are different people, but the role of the oldest sibling comes with some special experiences that they'd both understand.
There's one sibling in particular that gets a particularly rough role in family dynamics, and that's the middle sibling.
In 1964, Austrian psychotherapist Dr. Alfred Adler proposed a theory regarding the differences between sibling archetypes. In this birth order theory, he noted several personality differences between the three sibling positions, including saying that the oldest sibling is more authoritarian and has high expectations put upon them, while the youngest sibling is often spoiled but feels like they are always living in the shadow of those that came before them.
As for the middle sibling, they're often lost in the chaos, struggling to find their place between their other siblings.
Middle Child Syndrome
This theory gave birth to a term known as Middle Child Syndrome. It's meant to describe the specific outlook and way of moving through life that one develops, specifically due to being a middle child.
It involves feelings of inadequacy, of insecurity, and of having one's flame smothered out by endless comparisons to their other siblings. Middle siblings often feel ignored or neglected as the attention turns to accomplished older siblings or doted-upon young siblings, while the middle child is left to fend for themselves.
Further Traits Of A Middle Child
Because the older and younger siblings seem to embody opposite ends of the personality spectrum, with older siblings being particularly resolute and younger siblings being babied, the middle sibling is thus overshadowed from both sides.
They're either quieter and milder because of this, or they'll go the other way and act out in retaliation, doing whatever it takes to get a fraction of the attention their other siblings get. It's hard to find an identity when there are two people you have to compete with for any sense of uniqueness.
These feelings can also manifest in a competitive nature, feeling a rivalry between themselves and their siblings, the winning prize being their parents' affection. They start to get fed up with being ignored, maybe feeling things like anger or extreme jealousy toward their siblings.
Alternatively, they become a peacemaker, wanting to prove themself in any way so they start to shoulder everyone else's burdens, wanting to prove themself to be useful in any respect if they feel they can't rise above either of their siblings.
Just Getting By
This constant sense of struggling against your own family, of constantly feeling lesser than, can greatly affect development, creating issues even into adulthood. Neglect from parents can lead to codependency in later relationships, while feelings of inadequacy or existing solely in the shadows of others can greatly damage one's self-esteem.
They also might feel like they're not allowed to express themselves fully, having to shrink their personality while growing up. All of these issues compound into an adult who feels stifled by life like they're barely staying afloat, their head just above water.
Enough On Your Own
Actual studies regarding Middle Child Syndrome are still taking place, with no current data definitively pointing to whether or not it's a real phenomenon. At the very least, it's a sentiment that a lot of middle children share, and when looking at these issues, the anecdotal evidence is sometimes all that matters.
If you're a middle child who feels like your upbringing has impacted you, know that you're not alone. There are others who understand what you've been through and people who want to love you for all that you are, no comparison necessary.
Climbing back up from that pit of loneliness and self-consciousness is no easy feat, but it is doable, and there's a better life on the other side of that climb. The first step is often the hardest part. Where do you even start? Where do you look to for guidance?
Thankfully, there are programs designed to help put you on the path toward a brighter, more confident future. This series of audio lessons will help you understand your greatest strengths and how to use them to improve your life. Get started today, and see where your powers will take you.