Why Your Middle Child Is The Most Powerful Of Your Kids
Contrary to popular belief, being the middle child has helped some people to develop strong leadership qualities when they grow up.
The common stereotype of the middle child is they will always be ignored in favour of the more accomplished firstborn or the cute and needy youngest child. They often get lost in the hustle and bustle of family affairs, developing an inferiority complex that never really goes away.
It’s a common stereotype in popular culture, but is it really true? New research suggests that a middle child has some pretty cool advantages. Contrary to popular belief, being the middle child has helped some people develop strong leadership qualities when they grow up.
Here are eight reasons why being a middle child is a pretty cool deal.
The middle child will always compete with other siblings for attention and resources, so finding their own niche and voice in the family becomes a priority for them.
Catherine Salmon, a professor of psychology at the University of Redlands and coauthor of the book The Secret Power of Middle Children says as much. Middle children hone their skills in empathy as a result of their childhood experience. Seeing things from another person’s perspective helps them become better problem-solvers.
“The negotiator role is one they typically have to take up to get what they need in competition with the needs and desires of favored firsts and pampered lasts,” Salmon said.
Sharper negotiating skills in middle children is a social and professional advantage. This makes them better at making friends.
A 1976 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that compared to firstborns, children born after them had better social skills and were more popular.
A survey of 1,000 parents and 1,000 middle children by TheBabyWebsite.com found that a third of the parents surveyed admitted that their second child often gets left out.
This has the positive effect however, of taking intense scrutiny off the middle child. This means middle children are often freer, more creative, and more willing to do new things.
For example, middle children will often get to spend more time alone, forcing them to come up with creative ways to entertain themselves.
Okay, so the eldest are more likely to be under more pressure to live up to their parents’ expectations of them. This often leads to a higher risk of depression, than those children who came after them.
Middle children don’t often have this problem, since there’s less pressure upon them. So they’re less likely to be hard on themselves when encountering failure or disappointment during adulthood.
Alright, alright, the eldest are usually given a lot of credit for being natural leaders. However, middle children tend to learn many highly valued leadership qualities. Among these are cooperative skills, relationship-building skills, and independence. (Is it a coincidence that 52% of US Presidents are middle children? You decide.)
Salmon said eldest children are more likely to lead using dominance. But middle children lead through persuasion because they’ve learned negotiation and peacemaking skills early on.
“In addition, middles’ ability to think outside the box, the result of greater openness to experience (which also facilitates exploring different niches in the family), lends itself to entrepreneurial approaches,” she said.
So, the middle child has good people skills. Good! Because conflict-resolution skills are helpful in the workplace and a long-lasting marriage.
On a related note, a study by the University of Washington’s John Gottman found that couples who are more willing to make compromises are more communicative. They were able to clearly state their positions during arguments. And they had stronger marriages.
Salmon conducted a survey for her book which revealed that 80% of middle children had never cheated on their significant others. On the other hand, 65% of firstborns and 53% of those born last had. There’s also a review of birth order literature in 2010 that found that being a middle child had a strong correlation with being faithful in monogamous relationships.
Still not convinced? Well, numerous studies have detailed the social and mental benefits of growing up with siblings.
One study in Ohio State University revealed that a child with siblings had more highly developed social skills in kindergarten than an only child. It can be attributed to them having to play well with others at an early age.
Recent research has turned this idea on its head, though. The argument is that being an only child has little to no effect on future social development. But, growing up with siblings has been linked to lower rates of divorce and higher rates of altruism.
The middle child gets a pretty a good deal. They learn from the wisdom and mistakes of their elders, and they can teach what they learn to the siblings younger than them.
This makes them flexible. There is no assigned role to the middle child. They can be fluid and assume either role, as student or teacher.
This is the age of helicopter parents. They hover around their kids, make a lot of noise, fuss and overprotect. You know the deal.
Children may find it difficult to learn to live independently with helicopter parents around. But if you’re a middle child, HA! Being forgotten and ignored suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
Other kids suffer from the insufferable effects of over-parenting. But middle children? They’re largely left to their own devices. This means more freedom to solve their problems and the chance to forge a path for themselves.
“It seems a bit counterintuitive, but in a post-helicopter age where many college kids and beyond aren’t very good at managing their own time and efforts, perhaps because parents have done too much of this for them, it seems like there might be a real advantage to not be the 24/7 focus for parents,” Salmon said.
I have to give it to the middle children: they are some of the most motivated and confident people I know, and they’re also deeply in touch with who they are.
So if you have a friend who’s a middle child or if you have a middle child, go to them when they’re feeling down. Show them this list. They are awesome. The world will break without them. You can’t have a world without a middle, eh?
YOU CAN ALSO READ: Men with sisters are happier, better communicators, studies show.