The idea that middle children are overlooked and underappreciated is perpetuated in popular culture. We even gave it a label, “middle child syndrome,” but there are plenty of middle kids out there proving that many of the ideas we hold about middle children are actually myths. They may be in the middle, but so is the cream in an Oreo, and nobody ever overlooked that.
Studies of middle children have shown that they are outgoing, and contrary to popular belief, actually rebel less than their older and younger siblings. According to researcher Katrin Schumann, middle kids are likely to have "strong social lives and flourishing careers".
"Far from being doomed to failure and loneliness, middle children are more likely than their siblings to be successful,” Schumann wrote for the Daily Mail. "The apparent disadvantages they endure in childhood turn out to be beneficial, in many cases giving them the attributes of empathy, independence, articulacy and creativity."
The co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children, with Dr. Catherine Salmon, Schumann says the middle may actually be the best birth order position, and research backs up her claims.
One study published in the The Journal of Genetic Psychology found middle children do better in group activities than eldest and youngest kids do, and a review of hundreds of birth order research projects concluded middleborn kids have high social scores and the least issues with acting out.
The authors of the review did stress the golden rule of individual psychology in their conclusion though, noting: “Everything can be different. Similarly, birth- order personality implications are not one-size-fits-all.”
That’s an idea echoed by Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist and author of The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are. According to Leman, “Sometimes extenuating circumstances tweak the natural birth order sequence.”
You could end up with a middle child who acts more like a firstborn, especially if you’ve got a big gap between kids, but most middle children will be as highly social, creative and flexible as the research indicates.
“They’re a little bit like going down to the blood bank and finding the universal donor, they get along well in relationships,” Leman said in a recent television interview.
As Schumann told Psychology Today, middles are cooperative kids, and their birth order helps them develop skills that are critical in the modern world. They make good teachers, actors, social workers, and diplomats.
Simply put, middleborns are enviable, not envious.