Middle Child Syndrome – Signs and Tips to Prevent It


Middle child syndrome is a psychological condition among children born in the middle. They are often plagued by negative feelings of emptiness, unworthiness, inadequacy, jealousy and characterized by low self-esteem and extreme seclusion from the outside world, which if left untreated, in some cases, may even lead to psychotic behaviour later in life.

This article gives you an insight into (very common but often not given much importance to) this syndrome and also shares some tips on how to prevent it.

What is Second or Middle Child Syndrome?

Middle child syndrome is a psychological condition of feeling left out by a child who is the middle one in between two siblings. The middle child’s personality becomes negative towards her siblings. She feels pangs of jealousy, inadequate, has low self-esteem and becomes an introvert.

Do all Children Suffer from this Syndrome?

The middle child syndrome is a topic of debate. It has been observed that not all of the middle children develop such traits or symptom. However, this could be due to the differences in parenting techniques. If the parents are careful enough not to behave differently with each of their children and not to make any child feel neglected, then the middle child may not develop any such psychological problem. Some children may also be matured enough to handle differences better and not allow any negativity to creep in.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Middle Child Syndrome?

Due to the feeling of being excluded and differentiated from his siblings, a middle child may suffer from the middle child syndrome. The signs and symptoms of the syndrome are:

  • Low Self-Esteem

The feeling of being excluded, discriminated and unloved by the parents has a negative impact on the middle child giving way to low self-esteem.

  • Unsocial

The child may get socially withdrawn from outsiders or her peers for the fear of being treated in the same way like her parents treat her.


  • The feeling of Being Unworthy

She may develop feelings of being unworthy. She may feel lost and also fail to determine the direction she should take in life.

  • Frustration

Feeling unworthy, alone and aimless in life could make her frustrated.

  • Attention Seeking

The need for attention is a very common symptom of the middle child syndrome. They become extremely demanding and always want people’s attention, especially from their parents.

  • Extreme Behaviour

Children with the middle child syndrome may be too accommodating with everyone at times and at times, they may turn rebellious in minor things.

  • Trust Issues

A child with middle child syndrome may have trust issues. Everyone learns to trust when they feel close to someone or feel loved. Children with such issue cannot open up to anyone or cannot confide anything to anyone. However, not all children suffering from middle child syndrome distrust people. Some of them may go to extremes just to lean on people or trust them.

What are Characteristics of Middle Child Syndrome?

The middle child syndrome psychology arises out of a feeling of being left out, being over-shadowed by her siblings and not feeling loved or cared for by her parents. Look out for these middle child behaviour characteristics to understand whether your child is suffering from the psychological issue.

1. Sibling Rivalry/Jealousy

This usually happens when the parents compare her to any of her siblings. As a result, it brings her self-confidence down and makes her feel jealous of her siblings.

2. Aimless

The feeling of being uncared for and unloved by her parents may make her feel that it is useless to achieve anything in life since her achievement will not be acknowledged or appreciated. Therefore, she feels that having an ambition and working hard towards a goal in life will only go in vain.

3. Tantrums

She may quite often cry for small things or complain about her siblings. This is a way of her throwing tantrum in order to seek attention.


Does the Order of Birth Affect the Child’s Personality?

Personality development is a complex process and the effects of middle child syndrome can be due to different variables. The middle child is neither the youngest one (the baby of the house) nor the eldest one (the responsible one), is squeezed in between the two. She is the one who gets the least attention than her siblings. This makes her crave for more attention from her parents and on not getting it, she may feel left out and unloved. This makes her more independent as a child and later on as an adult too. She also learns to act as a pacifier and be a good listener since that is what she does in between her two siblings. The feeling of “being left out” may make her either an unsocial or she may try hard to lean on someone. She may also turn out be shy and an introvert with hardly anyone to turn to or anyone to call a friend. The emotional tie between a middle child and her family members may be less since she feels neglected by them.

Possible Triggers of this Syndrome

We cannot say that a child harbours negative feelings or thoughts without any rhyme or reason. If you delve deeper, you will always find a connection. Therefore getting to the root cause of the problem can help. Listed below are some of the triggers of the middle child syndrome.

  • Identity Crisis

It is one of the main causes of middle child syndrome. The middle child has no idea where she fits in and what is expected out of her. She never had the opportunity to be the “only child” as her elder sibling is or gets very less time to be the “baby” of the house. She gets a feeling that the oldest one gets more privileges as the elder one and more adulation for achievements whereas her younger sibling gets more attention. The feeling of being unimportant, unseen and unheard leaves her in a state of perplexity. She does not understand where she belongs or what can she do to become the “special one” of her parents. Getting squeezed in between the favourites (read: siblings) of her parents, she suffers silently without the knowledge of her parents which later may become bigger issues in life.

  • No Support System

A middle child feels neglected and alone. She has no person to lean on to. This feeling of no support gives her a feeling of loneliness and most often may put her into depression.

Tips to Prevent this Syndrome

It is imperative for parents having three kids (especially of the same gender) to follow certain rules while raising them. Listed below are some tips which you can follow to prevent the middle child syndrome.

  • Awareness of Middle Child Syndrome

The most effective way of preventing is to be aware of the syndrome. In case you see your middle one exhibiting the signs and symptoms of middle child syndrome, acknowledge it and work towards preventing it before it becomes drastic in nature.

  • Be Patient

Every child is special for every parent. However, if your middle one feels and thinks otherwise, be patient. It is quite possible that you may get frustrated when even after counselling her umpteen number of times and trying to make her feel loved, she thinks differently. Continue with your counselling and someday you will be able to make a mark.

  • Give Extra Attention to Your Middle Child

Even after being close to her she feels unwanted, unloved and not cared for, make sure to connect more with her. Give her all the attention she craves for. Make her feel special just the way you make her siblings feel. There may be times when you may disagree with what she says. However, remember to hear her out to make her feel that her say has been heard and been given importance.


  • Make Her Feel Important and a Part of the Family

Everyone wants to feel important. However, being in the middle, this need may not be met. You could give her some responsibilities which should be acknowledged when she fulfils them. This will make her feel important and that “significant someone” in the family.

  • Encourage Her in What She Excels in

Making your middle one feel encouraged and motivated in all her endeavours is important, especially in the one in which she has the potential to excel.

  • Teach Your Middle Kid to Stand Up for Herself

Ask her to voice her need, concern or her opinion to her siblings or anyone she is playing with or socialising with. Teach her to stand for herself and not to be submissive even during an altercation instead of walking away when shouted at or pushed away.

  • Listen and Empathise with Her

In order to make her feel loved and cared for, you have to listen to her more intently and also empathise with her in case she has any complaints. This will also make her feel important and that “significant someone” that she yearns to be.

  • Make Her Feel Special

Make her feel as important as the others in the family. Do not hold her siblings in higher esteem than her or treat them better than her. This will make her feel resentful towards her siblings and with the parents as well.

  • Praise Her

Like any other individual, your middle one also needs praise and acknowledgement for her achievements. This will increase her self-confidence and self-esteem. Even if you feel she hasn’t achieved anything much to be praiseworthy, do it to for whatever little she has done. After all your praise will do more good to her than harm her.

  • Show Her Respect

Like any individual or any of her siblings, she has the right to express her feelings, emotions and ideas. Therefore, treat her seriously by listening to her and give her respect for the person she is.

  • Spend a Day Every Week/Month

Keep a day once a week or once a month for each child. On these days, you can take the child out with you or play with her or do something that she enjoys doing. This will make your middle one realise that you are unbiased and give her importance just the way you give to her other siblings. This one on one will also give her an opportunity to tell you or open up in front of you which she may not near others. These one-day sessions of hers with you may also bring her close to you and she may rely on you as her confidante rather than her friends.

  • Stop Comparing

No two individuals are the same. Each one will have their own strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, never compare your other two with your middle one or vice-versa. This will only have an adverse effect on her. Love and appreciate her for what she is and who she is. Comparing will only develop an inferiority complex in her.

Challenges that Middle or Second Child Face

Along with her place as the youngest in the family, she loses out on all the love and attention that she was given before her younger sibling came into this world. This is a drastic change for her. Along with this, she may face few more challenges which could give rise to the middle child syndrome in her.

1. People Forget Her Existence

For the parents, the eldest one will always be their “firstborn”, their “special one” and they always fuss over their youngest one who is always a baby for them. Squeezed in between the two siblings, the middle child hardly has any existence in the family. He is most often left “forgotten”.

2. No Room of Her Own

The older one has a room because she was the first one to be born and then you came along and got a room for yourself until the day, your younger sibling was born.

3. They Have to be Independent

Parents are too busy either applauding the elder one’s achievements or babying the youngest one. They don’t have much time to look into the matters of the middle kid. Therefore, she has to do things on her own most of the time making her independent.


Positive Attributes of a Middle Child

A middle child may have many negative psychological issues. However, she may also have some excellent qualities that make stand out in a crowd.

  • Excellent Negotiator

As a child or even as adults, in between two siblings, middle ones never get to have their say. This makes them all the more compromising not just with her siblings but also with the outside world. Therefore, they are very successful as negotiators.

  • They are Very Fair and Justified

Having seen all sides of the coin from a very young age, middles know exactly how it feels when one is unfairly treated. So she usually has a fair and justified take on everything and everyone.

  • They are Risk Takers

Parents are busy looking forward to the achievements of their eldest kid or the youngest one. The middle one is usually off their radar. This gives the middle one enough space to try out new things. She is also spared from the pressure of having to achieve. This gives her the freedom to take risks and if she fails, it does not bog her down because nobody has any expectation out of her.

  • They are Flexible

Being in the middle and having to adapt to all situations, she becomes very flexible and adaptable. They accept almost every situation without a huff.

A middle child may have her share of negatives but she is also someone having a lot many positive sides to her personality. A parent should try to recognize and acknowledge these positive traits and try to bring out the best in her.

Also Read:

Effects of Birth Order on Child’s Personality
Sibling Rivalry: How to Deal with it?