Some of the effects of middle child syndrome may include an increase in sibling rivalries and low self-esteem. It is not uncommon for middle children to also feel an amplified longing for adult attention. Children affected by this syndrome sometimes even exhibit disruptive behavior in an attempt to attract the attention of parents, teachers and others as a result of feeling overshadowed by older and younger siblings.
Children who are neither the oldest nor the youngest child in a family often experience what is described as middle child syndrome. Many describe feeling less significant than older or younger siblings and report feeling overlooked. It is also not unusual for middle children to be more socially introverted than older and younger siblings.
Middle child syndrome can increase the amount of sibling rivalries within a family. With children vying for attention and a unique place in the family, a middle child may feel an increased need to compete with older siblings who are often allowed more freedoms and responsibilities, as well as feeling ignored, compared with younger siblings who commonly receive more attention because they are the youngest. Middle children may feel a sense of resentment for the unique types of attention and communication offered to other siblings, and may even exhibit attention-seeking behavior.
Studies of self-esteem in children have also found this syndrome may impact a child’s sense of self-worth. Because of their birth position, middle children sometimes feel invisible to the rest of the family as older siblings and younger siblings often appear to receive more attention from parents and other adults. Despite being a middle child, however, some studies have shown that children who are the only girl or the only boy in the family often do not experience middle child syndrome. It is believed their unique position as being the only child of a specific gender attracts a level of attention and a feeling of uniqueness that other middle children with siblings of the same sex do not experience.
While birth order is not the only factor involved in shaping personality, this syndrome is often attributed to feelings of low self-esteem in adulthood. Researchers disagree, however, with the commonly held notion that the order of one’s birth determines a person’s level of success in life. As people mature and begin individual lives as adults, many are able to shed any negative effects associated with birth order.