Children who are born the oldest or the youngest in the family have a place. The children, however, who are born between the oldest and the youngest often feel ignored or unnoticed. Children who are adversely affected by their birth order can develop Middle Child Syndrome (MCS).
The primary feature of MCS is that the child feels that the first born and the baby get unfair amounts of attention, while he is overlooked. This may or may not be a reality, but it is the perception of the child who suffers MCS. Another feature of the syndrome is social withdrawal. Children with MCS typically do not have many friends; as adults, they experience difficulty maintaining romantic relationships. While a child with MCS does not enjoy being in the spotlight, the perceived lack of attention can make the child act out at school and home to try and garner attention.
Children who have MCS are often artistically talented and can be quite creative. Creative fields are often good professional choice. Middle children typically excel in art and writing. Middle children do well when they can work flexible hours that will allow them to work around their personal pursuits and projects.
MCS is identified through an overall assessment of the child’s behavior and attitudes. Children who are not born first or last and are acting out at school, having problems at home or withdrawing from social opportunities, may be developing MCS. Paying careful attention to the child’s overall emotional attitude can help identify the issue.
Parents who believe their child is at risk for MCS can take steps to prevent it or reduce its impact if it is already present. Taking time to praise the middle child’s efforts in school and at home, reminds the child that he is an important member of the family and the world. Putting the child’s desires at the family forefront occasionally helps the child feel special and valued, without having to demand the attention. When you notice your middle child behaving well, following instructions and being kind to his siblings, it is important for you to encourage him to continue making these good choices.
While there are things that can be done at home to alleviate MCS issues, any time a child shows true signs of depression, a consultation with a mental health expert should be considered. Signs of depression include sleeping too much or too little, a change in appetite, angry outbursts, overly emotional, statements about self-inflicting injuries and withdrawing from activities he used to enjoy.