Birth Order and the Middle Child

Birth order is a pretty broad subject and I could write about several aspects of it.  You know: Birth Order and intelligence, Birth Order and motivation, Birth Order and personality, Birth Order and achievement, Birth Order and creativity…the list goes on.  What I wanted to write about is more specifically the personality of the middle child (because I’m one and I’m writing this so I can write about anything I want!)

I did quite a bit of research on this subject when I was younger.  I was obsessed with it for some reason…maybe it’s because I’m a middle child, I don’t know.  I used my own research paper that I wrote in college to jog my memory!  I also read some books by an authority on the subject: Dr. Kevin Leman who wrote “The Birth Order Book” and “Were You Born for Each Other?” which is about Birth Order and relationships. 

Finding information about middle born children proved to be quite elusive though.  I found plenty of material on first-born, only children and last-borns.  Middle borns there just wasn’t that much, and I think mainly that’s because the middle born child is the more difficult personality to define.  The personality, keep in mind, of the middle born child is usually directly related to the sibling that was born immediately before them, according to my readings on the subject.  So where there are some real specific personality traits that are found in most all firstborn and specific personality traits found in last born children, the middle born child traits are not as specific.  Yet there are some qualities that a middle born child has that I define as generic personality traits that I want to share with you.

Loyal – Middle born children tend to be intensely loyal.  If there is a secret you know and you just have to tell somebody…pick a middle child to tell.  They are much more likely to keep secrets than anybody else.  Middle children tend to keep their feelings to themselves so this may be an indication as to why secrets are often safe with them.

Good negotiators – Middle children do not like confrontation.  Because of this they tend to be good negotiators.  “Because they couldn’t have Mom and Dad all to themselves, and get their way, middle children learn to negotiate and compromise,” said Dr. Leman.

Competitive – This is an easy one to define.  Allot of middle children are competitive because of the competition with the older sibling.  On the other side of the coin though, you can have a middle child that is not competitive at all because the older sibling or firstborn may be fiercely competitive themselves.  Remember, the way we are as middle borns is directly correlated to our older sibling’s personality.  But a lot of middle children are competitive and some may not even realize it until they become adults.

Well adjusted – In my research I found that there is a definite advantage to being a middle child.  It’s been found that, in general, middle children cope with problems better in life.  To explain this I need to mention briefly the first-born, last born and only child.  First born and only children have many more pressures put on them and more is expected from their parents and family.  Overall, a first-born will fall into 1 of 2 categories: they become either driven, compulsive adults or a compliant adult always wanting to please.  Last born children, usually are given more lenient treatment by the parents while growing up because relaxing of the discipline (you know, parents of several kids just get exhausted after a while)!  As a result one of the traits of a last born child is to have tendencies of irresponsibility later in life.  Dr. Leman noted in one of his books – that middle children are most often the people who are the last to seek the services of a therapist.  He said the first borns and only children, especially those in demanding careers, seek therapy the most.  Another psychologist said that “middle children are tenacious adults because we are used to life being unfair.”

Social – Middle children are more social than the oldest child of the family.  During their teenage years they exercise those social abilities. They tend to have more friends than the first-born.  Dr. Leman says that middle children are more likely to “run with the pack” to seek acceptance from their friends because some think they’ve missed that acceptance from their parents.

Peacemakers – Many middle children are masters at compromise and make good peacemakers.  Middle born children are the people you want in a meeting that you have a feeling may be a bit contentious.  We’re good at looking at both sides and helping others settle on a compromise and solve differences.  The middle childs compromising skills are a direct result of what we had to do in childhood – compromise with Mom and Dad to get what we wanted.

Inferiority Complex – Because of the personality types of the oldest child or last child the middle children often feel inferior to others.  There’s always somebody out there that is better than us, that oldest brother or sister that could do so much more, in our parents eyes, than we could.

Avoid confrontation – As I mentioned earlier, middle children avoid confrontation.  Yes, it’s good that because of this we compromise and make peace…but this can eventually lead to feeling closed in and hiding our feelings.  We all know that sometimes hiding our feelings and not talking about things can be unproductive and eventually lead to being very unhappy because we just don’t want to have to talk about things.

Birth order and your placement in your first family is an important factor of how you deal with people and events all throughout your life. To understand how our birth order in our family shapes and molds us, I truly believe, can open windows in our lives.  Understanding ourselves to the fullest, leads to better understanding of those around us.


About Caroline

Daughter, Sister, Mom... I think the best thing I've done is to be a mom, to give my kids my love but not my thoughts and to listen, observe, offer advice when needed.
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One Response to Birth Order and the Middle Child

  1. Wanda Reaves says:

    Truly well done, honey. Truly enlightening.


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