Middle Children Like Me Are Going Extinct. But the World Needs Us.

We're crucial parts of families — and we can even help achieve world peace (seriously).

Image courtesy of MamaPolina/Getty

I’ve been diagnosed with Middle Child Syndrome. This means I’m neglected, resentful, lack drive, possess a negative outlook and feel as though I don’t belong. This also means that I’m a mediator/peacemaker, emotionally strong, more likely to take risks, less likely to buckle under pressure and independent.

Growing up in our single parent household, my older sister was the “rebellious one,” my little sister was the “needy one” and soon enough I became the one who was always ok. The one my mother never had to worry about.

Inquires about grades were reserved for my youngest sister, who needed an extra push. Inquiries about whereabouts during a night out with friends were reserved for my eldest sister who was always getting herself into something. My grades? Great. I was an honors student all throughout school, determined to finance my college education through scholarships. My nights out? Nonexistent. I ran track and was usually either at practice or in bed due to an early meet time on Saturday mornings.

As I grew up and went off to college, my divorced parents began to speak to each other again, to show me and my sisters that they were capable of co-parenting. But by talk to each other, I mean disagree about every single thing that could be disagreed upon. “Can you believe your mother wants me to help move your things out on Friday instead of Saturday?” “Your father thinks he can do whatever he wants by trying to move your things out on whatever day he wants, isn’t that crazy?” I was stuck fielding every angry phone call from both parties. Such is the life of the family mediator—the middle child whom one no one has to worry about.

Now that I’m adulting full time, my middle child traits continue to guide me. My ability to view situations from all sides helps my decision making. My life as the neglected sibling has made me more independent, which in turn has helped steer me through the transition from college student to real adult. The list could go on.

You see, middle children possess a set of traits that allow us to be ok… to be the one who is never worried about. This is why I’m concerned by Adam Sternbergh’s New York Magazine piece, “The Extinction of the Middle Child,” where he suggests that as people have fewer children, middle children are going extinct. “If the middle child has to work harder to find a way to shine, then we all benefit from their efforts. If the middle child is more likely to take risks, those risks might reward us all. If the middle child is a natural peacemaker, can’t we all use a little more peace?” Sternberg writes. “What few people realize is that middle children are actually more likely to successfully effect change in the world than any other birth order,” psychologist Catherine Salmon tells Sternbergh. Losing middle children like me means losing a set of characteristics that not only help us thrive individually but help our communities thrive as well.  

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