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Middle Children May Not Be as Neglected as They (and We) Believe

Prepare to smash your middle-child stereotypes

It’s a common belief that birth order colors a child’s personality for life, with the oldest, the middle, and the babies each bestowed certain stereotypical traits. Being in the middle is commonly  thought of as the most unfortunate placement, with the term “Middle Child Syndrome” even being coined to describe their perceived qualities of being envious and feeling neglected.

Well, not so says a new book entitled “The Secret Power of Middle Children,” by co-authors Catherine Salmon and Kartrin Schumann. They say their research has found that middle children are NOT the sullen milquetoast that they are often portrayed as, but actually “agents of change” and more successful in business, politics, and science than their firstborn and lastborn peers. In fact, more middleborns have been president of the USA than any other placement.

The book goes on to say that despite what people may think, middleborns are actually “self-aware team players with remarkable diplomatic skills. Because they’re both outgoing and flexible, they tend to deal well with others–in the workplace and at home.  They’re more motivated by fairness than money when making life choices, and have a deep sense of family, friends, and loyalty.” All of which, I am sure, a middleborn would be happy to tell you about, if you would just listen to them.

I jest, but the stereotypes of people based on their birth order are part of our culture and I, as a somewhat misrepresented lastborn, am all for smashing them. It is generally accepted that firstborns are not only viewed as responsible, but also the most intelligent, while the lastborn babies are assumed to be the most gregarious, but spoiled and irresponsible. Observing my brood of three boys and with anecdotal evidence from friends, I have found that the eldest are the most stubborn and demanding and the babies are natural button-pushers who thrive on controlling their siblings by making them crazy. It is also commonly thought that our middleborns are all peace-makers who either try to avoid conflict by mending fences or withdrawing for “alone time.”

Have you found that these birth order stereotypes fit your kids’ personalities? Have you tried to change how you parent them to change the accepted outcome of their placement in that order? Do you think stereotypes are changing and that children today are developing different birth order-related traits?

You can also watch an interview with the the authors on the Today Show site.

 

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