Personality traits of middle child

The Effects of Birth Order on Character Traits

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 25, 2021

In this Article

  • What Is Middle-Child Syndrome?
  • Can Birth Order Affect Personality?
  • Characteristics of a Middle Child
  • Outstanding Qualities of Middle Children

If a couple has two children and a third on the way, will the birth of their third child affect the personality of the second-born? Some psychologists think so. Here’s what to know about “middle-child syndrome.”

What Is Middle-Child Syndrome?

Many experts who study personality believe that your family’s birth order plays a role in your development. They see "middle-child syndrome" as the idea that if you're neither the oldest child nor the youngest, you get less attention from your parents and feel “caught in the middle”.

As a result, you may take on certain personality traits that are different from those of your older and younger siblings.

Can Birth Order Affect Personality?

Middle-child syndrome is part of the psychology behind birth order. Birth order ranges from firstborn, or oldest; to second-born, third-born, and so forth; to youngest, sometimes called the last born. Though many experts think birth order is important to personality and family structure, not everyone is on board.

A psychology pioneer named Alfred Adler introduced the idea that birth order affects the development of a child. He believed that how many siblings a child has can affect the child’s potential. 

Adler thought that even though children grew up in the same household, their personalities wouldn’t be the same. He said that each child should be looked at as an individual and that each child would differ based on their order of succession. 

Still, middle-child syndrome isn't recognized as an official condition. Many researchers have disagreed with Adler’s theories.

Even researchers who believe in that middle-child syndrome have trouble applying it to all middle children. For example, they find that there may be a relationship between birth order and being outgoing. But it is more likely to be true for males than for females.

Characteristics of a Middle Child

Do you, or does someone you know, have middle-child syndrome? Think about whether you know any middle children with these personality traits:  

Rebellious. They're also less religious than their siblings and parents. Still, they're less likely to act out against their parents.

Sociable.  They're good at being mediators and want fairness in situations. They're also trustworthy friends and work well as team members.

Not as family-oriented as their siblings. They may have a stronger sense of not belonging than their siblings do. So, even though many can be great when working in groups, some middle children can struggle when working with others. 

Feeling overshadowed.   They come to believe that their parents don’t care about them. Looking back as adults, they express a negative view of childhood.

Mobile.  They're often the first sibling to move out of the house. They’re also more likely to move the farthest away. This stems from their feeling misunderstood by their families.

Not perfectionists. Still, they tend to take up something that an older sibling isn't so great at. For example, if the older sibling is a scholar, the second-born may focus on athletics.

Outstanding Qualities of Middle Children

Despite how you may see yourself as the middle child, you will learn how to act, make friends, and come into your own by watching your siblings or peers. But it seems that your status also can drive you to excel. This may come from feeling second-best compared with your older or younger siblings. 

Some well-known middle children have been or continue to be great negotiators, trailblazers, and fighters for justice.  Among them are Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Charles Darwin, Madonna, Bill Gates, and Nabisco CEO Michael Gerstner. These middle children used their personality traits to help them gain success. 

As a middle child, you may not be a perfectionist, but you may be more open to taking risks and to new ideas. In studies, 85% of middle children showed such openness, compared with 50% of firstborns. 

You may be more skilled at persuasiveness and debate. You probably can see more than one side of an argument, which makes you empathetic. Some middle children claim that their success is due in part to their ability to compromise. 

If middle-child syndrome is real, it might be the middle child's sense of their own uniqueness that has led to many discoveries, important theories, and social movements. 

Definitive Traits of a Middle Child

Birth order doesn't automatically impact your personality. But there are some common traits that middle children share—beyond peacekeeping.

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Middle children have strong friendships and relationships

A middle child tends to prioritize relationships outside of the family unit, according to Lisa Lewis, MD. “Middle children, probably because they feel overlooked, will have a tendency to create stronger friendships and long-term relationships,” Lewis says. They rely more heavily on relationships with their peers than with family as they see outsiders meeting their needs for emotional support, Nedra Glover Tawwab, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Owner of Kaleidoscope Counseling in Charlotte, NC adds. Here are the facts that prove having friends is ridiculously healthy.

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Middle children are great mediators

Most middle children are peacekeepers. Since they are sandwiched between other siblings, they are often obsessed with fairness and balance. GinaMarie Guarino, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor Family Therapist, says that middle children also tend to manage conflict between siblings as well. “A middle child will hold a special relationship with each sibling, which helps him or her be able to mediate between the two and provide a balance between the oldest and youngest,” Guarino says.

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Middle children are wonderful negotiators

When middle children aren’t mediating family fights, they are making solid points for their own agendas. Thanks to good listening skills and patience, they know how to grab their parents’ attention—and negotiate for what they want. Or, as Frank Sulloway, Ph.D. puts it, “Middle-borns are the most willing to wheel and deal.”

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Middle children are easygoing

Being good mediators also helps middles compromise—meaning they are more likely to go with the flow rather than act stubborn of contentious, Guarino says. Plus, some parents may have more relaxed parenting styles by the time the second kid comes around. This is how your birth order could impact your health.

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Middles are innovative

According to Katrin Schumann, co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children, middles like to effect change more than any other birth order. That is thanks to their openness and willingness to try new things. One study found that middles are 85 percent more open to new ideas compared to the 50 percent of firstborns.

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Middle children are more independent

Since middles tend to form healthy relationships outside the home, they also tend to fuse less with their parents. “They are neither overcompensating in terms of taking on family responsibilities like the oldest sibling nor depending on others like the youngest,” says Katie Davis, PsyD. Although it may seem like siblings compete for their parents’ attention and “fusion,” middles who are less fused actually grow up to be healthier, better-adjusted adults, Davis says. “They benefit from the emotional distance they need to differentiate themselves as individuals,” she adds.

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Middle children are self-motivated

The independence that drives middle children also makes them self-motivated. Schumann says middles are used to working hard for their accomplishments—as well as recognition from their parents. So these hard-working justice seekers fight for what they want in life. Try these smart ways to stop sibling rivalry before it starts.

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Middle children are successful

Of all the U.S. presidents since 1787, about 52 percent were middle children. And successful middles don’t stop at the presidency. Many successful entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are middle children. Research shows that common middle child traits—including independence and strong negotiating skills—help middles take more risks and work hard leading to more life success. 

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Middle children are good co-workers

With both younger and older siblings, middles get the best of both worlds. They have one sibling to look up to and one to set an example for. Plus, relating well to both older and younger people is an added bonus to their work relationships. One study published in The Journal of Genetic Psychology found that middle kids do better in group activities and have higher social scores than the eldest or youngest children, making them great team players.  

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Middle children don’t crack under pressure

According to one study, firstborn kids have a higher risk of having depression than middle or last born kids. Firstborns are typically under more pressure to succeed for their parents’ sake. Middles, on the other hand, are less likely to be too hard on themselves as they go through life’s disappointments as an adult. Another study in Spain found that middles are less likely to develop other emotional disorders or be diagnosed with ADHD.

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Middle children are great parents

Once middles grow and start creating their own family, they often become good parents. A study found that middle children give their kids structure and rules, while also giving them a little freedom to make choices. In comparison, last-borns care less about rules and structure when it comes to their children. These are the bizarre ways your siblings affect you as a grown-up.

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Middle kids have level-heads

Middle children aren’t known for being spoiled, or being “the favorite,” but they are known for being “good. ” A study done by Texas Christian University and the University of Minnesota looked at peer acceptance and rejection in relation to birth order. They found that middle kids are the most well-adjusted of the family. Here’s what your birth order reveals about you.

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Remember, birth order only impacts personality so much

Although there are common traits of middle children, there are many other factors that contribute to a kids personality than their birth order. Arlene B. Englander, LCSW, MBA, a Columbia University-trained licensed psychotherapist, says that some elements could include the gender of the other siblings, the economic situation of the family, and divorce. For example, if the middle child is the only male, he might get special treatment regardless of being born after his sister. “In short, birth order may provide us with informative data in some situations, but we need to look at the whole picture and avoid stereotypes when seeking answers about how persons became who they are today,” Englander adds. Next, check out these habits healthy families always have.

[Source: Psychology Today]

Originally Published: July 09, 2018

Emily DiNuzzo

Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.

The average child

The psychological development of the average child does not always follow a certain pattern and differs in its own characteristics. A child who appeared after the first-born and before the third joyful event in the family is usually considered by parents to be unlike the other two children. As a result, he is brought to one of two extremes: either he becomes timid, reserved, very vulnerable, or he becomes domineering, aggressive, obsessed with a passion for rivalry. This is the result of the very circumstance that he was between his brothers or sisters. In the first variant, he usually gives in to their demands and persistent requests, really hoping that a kind father or affectionate mother will rush to his aid. In another case, the middle child is not so compliant, he is constantly on the defensive and longs, going on the offensive, to achieve a victory through which he can assert himself. Parents prefer the second course of action, meanwhile, it is not always better than the first. In fact, we usually underestimate the cost of aggressiveness, because in our society it is treated with sufficient tolerance. However, not everything that society allows or encourages can bring us deep satisfaction. Either way, both ways of doing things require the child to make a constant effort to fight against everything he doesn't like. This continuous tension leads to the fact that he always has some unsatisfied desires. Parents, in turn, are so involved in this problem that they are unable to do anything worthwhile. Here's how it usually goes.

At first, parents give their first child their full attention, as is often the case at the initial stage of the birth of a family. It is already much easier for them to raise a second child thanks to the experience gained with the first. Now they feel calmer, and therefore, at least at first, everything goes as well as possible. When the third child appears, unless the parents have an intention to create a large family, they already feel that they are tired of caring for children. But they do not leave the newborn without the necessary worries, but simply pay less attention to the second child. This is understandable - after all, the baby is helpless, it is really impossible not to take care of him, and thanks to considerable experience, this is not so difficult for parents to do. In this situation, the first child almost does not feel the lack of attention from the parents, because he has already passed into that stage of development, which is called “I myself!”. The second child, on the contrary, is already running on all fours or even starting to walk, but is still entirely dependent on the mother and requires care from her more than ever. For the mother, of course, it is a great relief that the first-born is almost independent, she understands the need to take care of the third child, and she has the hardest time with the middle one. As the children grow, the problem is complicated by new circumstances: the first brings more satisfaction to the parents, the third becomes more and more charming. And until some special talents are discovered, if they, of course, are, it is difficult for parents to appreciate the merits of the average child. As a result - and this is very harmful - he himself begins to treat himself in the same way as his parents.

The average child makes a choice between two extremes, which in one way or another appear before him in a complex process of relationships, largely dependent on countless factors in home life. In the end, his choice is usually determined by two factors - the character of the firstborn and the character of the parents. If the first child is too active and successful, perhaps his example will be unattainable to follow. Then the middle child will lose faith in his own strength and will soon withdraw into himself. On the contrary, if the older child is sensible, calm, and somewhat withdrawn, it is very likely that the middle child will become aggressive and competitive. And yet, in addition to these factors, the location of the parents also plays an equally important role. Without noticing it at all, many of them are more affectionate with younger children. But there are those, needless to say, who, on the contrary, favor the elder. If the parents belong precisely to the second type of people, their example will involuntarily arouse in the average child a desire to imitate them, which in children at this age often turns into arrogance and aggressiveness. On the contrary, if parents treat younger children with all their hearts, with great warmth and care, they can make the middle child want to behave like a small rival. In this case, his desire to attract the attention of his parents results in a withdrawal from everyone, which should serve as a reason for adults to show him more care. Needless to say, various combinations of these factors can subsequently greatly complicate the problem.

There are two ways to help the average child. First, we must try to find him an interesting occupation that would correspond to his increased excitability and in which he could show his competitive spirit. It makes no sense to scold him for this or that manner of behavior. This can only worsen the situation and deprive him of all the joys of life. Usually parents do not like reserved children and, on the contrary, encourage the spirit of competition in the middle child. This creates a challenge for the firstborn and encourages the middle child to act even more actively and decisively, going beyond just entertainment.

Helping the middle child to take the right attitude means to encourage him and make him behave in a way that does not upset anyone. 5-year-old Peter was helped to free himself from his inherent shyness by offering an individual game. He was so good at assembling structures and drawing so well that soon other children wanted to join him.

Therefore, he not only experienced joy while assembling the construction kit alone, but as a result he began to feel freer with other guys. There are many different games that children can play in solitude, and there is nothing wrong if they devote a lot of time to this.

For 5-year-old Emmy, a sure way was found to "discharge" her aggressive tendencies, thereby removing their destructive potential. She learned to play by all the rules. The games offered to her were quite competitive in nature and were able to interest the girl. But that's not all - the games were built in such a way that the main thing in them was NOT THE RESULT, but HOW the competition was held. Even if, in essence, Emmy has not changed, the girl has learned to restrain her impulsive reaction, she began to play calmly, like other children, and ceased to strive at all costs to stand out among them.

The second thing to do is to try to keep the children apart as much as possible. This advice is similar to a digression, but in fact its meaning is different. Children will still have many common interests, they will meet, visit each other, play together, fight. The point of this approach is only to show them that we recognize each of them as a person. That is why they should have separate rooms, different friends, and preferably different schools as well. True, not all this is possible in an ordinary family. But it is necessary to strive for this at least within the limits of the possible. You should not, for example, buy all the children the same clothes and toys. It's better to give something different. But often a child asks for exactly the same toy that his brother or sister received, only because for him this is a way to make sure of our love for him. Parents need to have a lot of flexibility to treat each child differently and show that they themselves also enjoy a variety of things. The more we demonstrate this to our children, the more they will be sure of our love.

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How to raise a child?

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Psychologists believe that the personality of a child largely depends on the order in which he appeared in the family. It is important for parents to take into account the seniority of children and their age difference in order to find the right approach to raising each child. I am a Parent will tell you about the characteristics of children of different ages in the same family, which will largely avoid the problems of education.


The baby, who appears first in the family, from the very beginning gets used to the fact that all parental attention surrounds him. He receives all the parental love and care and quickly gets used to such a privileged position.

But the situation changes radically when a second baby is born in the family, and in most cases the eldest child is not ready for such changes. The demands of parents are increasing, he increasingly has to show independence. This is especially acute in the very first months after the birth of the second baby, because the newborn needs special care, and parental care at this time is not divided equally between the two children.

Older children are most characterized by such character traits as responsibility, determination and self-confidence. In them, the makings of a leader are most manifested. More often, older children have a higher level of intelligence than middle or younger ones, which is not surprising, because it is on them that the main hope of parents is placed, who expect that the first-born will help them in many ways.

However, not all older children are able to cope with the burden of responsibility that falls on their shoulders, and this can lead to nervous disorders in the child. Such disorders can manifest themselves in tearfulness, the appearance of various kinds of fears, and increased sensitivity to any criticism. The child is afraid of not living up to parental expectations and suffers from a lack of attention on their part.

To avoid unpleasant consequences, do not forget about the older child after the appearance of another baby in the family, and vice versa, if possible, try to give him maximum attention, especially at first, until the child gets used to a new role for himself. Tell your child about the benefits of being older, highlight what older children are usually allowed to do the most, and let the older child feel small again at least once in a while.

Middle child

Middle children have the hardest time because their intermediate position does not allow them to stand out. The middle child is usually jealous of the older one, because he plays the role of a leader, but at the same time he does not like the younger one, who, by his appearance, deprived him of this status. That is why middle children strive to assert themselves with all their might, and often compete with their brothers and sisters.

Positive character traits that are usually inherent in children born average - sociability, flexibility, sociability, diplomacy. They easily find a common language with other people, are friendly and do not differ in excessive assertiveness.

But, despite their inherent positive qualities, middle children often have problems with self-esteem, because they are deprived of privileges within the family. Such children sometimes do not see the point in succeeding, because they are used to the fact that all the "laurels of honor" usually go to older and younger brothers and sisters.

To prevent this from happening, parents need to be especially attentive to the skills and talents of the average child. Give him the opportunity to surpass his brothers or sisters in some way, help him find himself in some business: let the child do an interesting job. It is also sometimes worth letting him be on a par with the rest of the children: let him go to a rock concert or disco with an older child, or let him fool around with a younger one. Only in this way can the average child appreciate the advantages of his position in the family.

Youngest child

Younger children usually do not experience a lack of parental attention, but they are tormented by a completely different problem - envy of the elder or elders. On the one hand, he suffers from the fact that he cannot do some things that are allowed due to his age, and on the other hand, he is afraid to grow up, because he does not want to lose his privileged position.

In the character of younger children, such positive traits as kindness, tenderness, carelessness, and adventurism are very often manifested. The younger ones often have artistic inclinations, as they are used to always being in the spotlight. They easily make contact with other people and are very sociable.

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