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Plight of the Middle Child: How Birth Order May Impact a Child’s Personality and Life Outcomes

Birth Order, Middle Child

With American families significantly smaller than that of prior generations, it is obvious that many couples are choosing to limit the number of children within a family. Before beginning a family, researching not only the financial, familial and social impact of children but also understanding the psychological component of birth order, will provide for a more educated decision during family planning. Of key importance are those families which plan to limit the number of children to three. Understanding the psychological implications of a middle child, both on the family and in society, will provide parents with a more educated basis on which to make a family planning decision and the methods to engage the middle child more actively.

In comparison to the first born child, the middle child generally feels as a second class citizen. Although rather trivial at face value, many middle children deal with the reality of “knowing” his parents for fewer days than that of the first born. In addition, the second born must also face the excruciating fact that none of his “firsts” were the first for his parents and so the parents may not exhibit the same degree of excitement as seen during the first birth, pregnancy and child growth experiences.

In contrast, the middle child also must face the dilemna that he is no longer the baby of the family. With the introduction of a third child, the middle child must now pass any extra attention, from the parents, to the younger sibling. For some middle children, after the introduction of a third child into the family unit, the child may feel an additional burden in attempting to be noticed.

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Advantages to being the middle child lie in the relative ability to coast through most family and social issues. Without the pressure of responsibiltiy as the eldest, and lacking the overbearing life of the youngest child, the middle child finds life is rather easy to pass through without much concern. With few demands, nervous situations and anxiety, the middle child is generally not treated as a common player in high stress situations and, therefore, is commonly a bystander. This may serve to the advantage of the middle child as they learn to negotiate and mediate challenges and scenarios.

As a middle child, experiencing the pull between an older and younger sibling, the ability to work through arguments and compications comes with ease. As a “trained” negotiator, the middle child can usually dissolve arguments rather quickly. Of concern, however, is the middle child’s tendency to live in the shadow of every activity based on experiences at home. Therefore, in real life situations, middle children may tend to be less actively involved or less likely to achieve goals unless really focused and driven.

When involved in the family planning decision, most child psychologists believe having multiple children is the optimal decision in providing security to future generations. When considering multiple children, understanding the advantages and disadvantages to having a “middle” child will provide for a more educated and pleasant family experience for both parents and the children of the family.