The Power of Birth Order

The Middle One

The Middle Child

Alison Cole

Famous Middle Children
Anne Hathaway, Joe Jonas, Owen Wilson

Innate Strengths
Middleborns are go-with-the-flow types; once a younger sibling arrives, they must learn how to constantly negotiate and compromise in order to "fit in" with everyone. Not surprisingly, Dr. Sulloway notes, mid kids score higher in agreeableness than both their older and younger sibs.

Because they receive less attention at home, middletons tend to forge stronger bonds with friends and be less tethered to their family than their brothers and sisters. "They're usually the first of their siblings to take a trip with another family or to want to sleep at a friend's house," says Linda Dunlap, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Marist College, in Poughkeepsie, New York. Tracie Chuisano, a mom of three from Wilmington, North Carolina, sees these traits in her middle son: "I let him stay over at a friend's house in the second grade, even though I'd thought his older brother had been too 'young' for it."

Common Challenges
Middle kids once lived as the baby of the family, until they were dethroned by a new sibling. Unfortunately, they're often acutely aware that they don't get as much parental attention as their "trailblazing" older sibling or the beloved youngest, and they feel like their needs and wants are ignored. "Middle kids are in a difficult position in a family because they think they're not valued," says Dr. Maidenberg, "It's easy for them to be left out and get lost in the shuffle." And there is some validity to their complaint: A survey by, a British parenting resource, found that a third of parents with three children admit to giving their middle child far less attention than they give the other two.

Necessary Nurturing
Find small ways to put your middleton in the spotlight. The biggest complaint among middle children is that they aren't "heard" within the family. But making simple gestures -- like letting her choose the restaurant or the movie that everyone goes to -- can mean the world to her. "A lot of the time, middle children end up deferring to the oldest's wants and the youngest's needs," Dr. Maidenberg says. So do what you can to make her feel empowered.

What You Need to Know About Your Middle Child
What You Need to Know About Your Middle Child

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