As the ‘syndrome’ would have us believe, middle children are unambitious, lack social skills and feel neglected.
Typically, firstborns are overachievers, the youngest child is most looked-after as the baby of the family, and where does that leave the middle child? Nowhere, that’s where.
“In short, [middle child syndrome] is where the older child gets all the awards, the younger gets all the love, and the middle gets nothing,” according to Urban Dictionary.
Middle children are unloved, permanently question their identity, misbehave to get attention and are just crying out to be noticed and appreciated by their parents.
Hi, I’m Rachel, and I’m a middle child.
A lifetime of neglection (am I being melodramatic?) can have negative consequences on a forgotten child, but despite my lamentations, I actually believe being a middle child has made me stronger and generally more prepared for life.
“Although middles are neglected, both by parents and researchers, they actually benefit from this in the long run,” says psychologist Lynne Griffin, who claims middle children are more empathetic, think outside the box and feel less pressure to conform.
Being a middle child has made me independent, having never felt like I could depend on my neglectful parents. OK, that’s not true. I can depend on my parents, but still. I'm independent.
Understandably, the first time a parent goes through a rite of passage with one of their children, it’s a big deal, and the last time too. No one cares about the middle kids though.
Naturally, everyone was very excited when my brother graduated from university, but when I told my parents my degree results, they said: “Well you were always going to get a 2:1,” and were severely lacking in enthusiasm for my graduation.
What’s a middle child got to do to make her parents proud!?
Sorry, 24 years of built-up emotion are coming out.
Those years of hardship have given me an array of essential life skills though.
We middle children don’t need to be micro-managed - just leave us be and we’ll get on with it. We’ll probably do an awesome job of it too because we work really hard.
Yes, because middle children generally do have to do more to get noticed, we are driven, ambitious fighters, always striving to be better and achieve more.
What’s more, we’re outgoing, having realised early on that we need to be vocal in order to be noticed. And anyone who knows me will confirm that I am nothing if not outgoing and vocal.
But these skills have helped me be bold in many aspects of my life.
A lot of middle children learn to be excellent negotiators.
Whether consciously or not, parents often favour the oldest and youngest children, so we middle children have had to come up with other ways to get what we want and make our voices heard.
According to Dr Griffin, middle children are “more willing to compromise and so they can argue successfully.” So bear that in mind next time you try and pick a fight with one of us.
As a middle child, it’s actually in my nature to avoid conflict though - most middles try not to rock the boat because in sibling trios, it’s all too common for the oldest and youngest to team up against the middle one. (Woe is us!)
But this means we get on well with everyone. We’re great at a party, we middle kids. Go on, invite us. You’ll see.
And d’you know what, Mum and Dad, when I’m Queen of the World, you’ll see too. (Joking. Love you, parents. Please don't stop taking me out for lunches)
All things considered though, maybe we middle children should be thanking our parents - thank you for the neglect, for ignoring us, for never making us feel special - because the struggle of being a middle child has, coincidentally, made us more awesome after all.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies