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Is middle child syndrome a myth?

The youngest child gets all the attention for being the baby, the oldest child gets to be the leader, and the middle child... gets to feel neglected and resentful? So went the conventional wisdom, but a new book tells us not to feel too bad for the middle child.

In “The Secret Power of Middle Children,” co-authors Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schumann state that while birth order does greatly affect middle children, it’s not what you’d think:  

“Contrary to expectations, middleborns are agents of change in business, politics, and science -- more so than firstborns or lastborns. Middles are self-aware team players with remarkable diplomatic skills. Because they’re both outgoing and flexible, they tend to deal well with others—in the workplace and at home. They’re more motivated by fairness than money when making life choices, and have a deep sense of family, friends, and loyalty. History shows them to be risk takers and trailblazers, yet they do suffer needlessly from poor self-esteem.”

Link: Read an excerpt from "The Secret Power of Middle Children."

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Stuck in the middle with you? A new book sheds light on being a middle child.

I’m less than a month into having a middle child -- I gave birth three weeks ago -- and my younger son could not have been more excited to have a new baby sister. But now that we’re a little bit into recalculating the triage that is family life (who needs to have their needs taken care of first), I wondered if my newly middle child R., at 6 years old, was feeling as though he was getting short shrift.  

I wanted to make sure he didn’t feel the loss of all the attention he’d been getting/demanding as the now-deposed baby of the house. While I wasn’t too concerned about him flying under the radar –- R. is a kid who has a way of making his feelings known to everyone within a 50-mile radius –- I wanted him to know that he wasn’t on the losing end of the sibling stick.

In between R’s busy schedule of going to day camp and coming home and harassing the baby (“Honey, PLEASE don’t touch the soft spot on her head”), I sat him down for a few minutes for an interview on his new middle-child status. Relishing the few seconds of Mommy’s undivided attention, he gave me the following exclusive interview.

“How do you like being the middle child so far?” I asked him.

“I like it a LOT.”

“Why?”

“I really like being older than one person,” R. said. “When you’re older than one person, it makes you comfortable. You’re bigger than they are. And if you’re not older than one person, you might be jealous that someone else is always bigger than you.”

Well, that made sense to me ... and I appreciated it being expressed as a hypothetical, too. But what about being younger than someone, I asked? How does he like that?

“I like being younger than one person too,” R. said. “Because then my big brother gets to take care of me and I really like that.”

Maybe one of the secret powers of being a middle child is always seeing glasses as half-full?

If you have a middle child – or are one yourself – what do you think? Do middle children get overlooked, or is middle-child syndrome a myth?

TODAY's Matt Lauer talks with authors Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schumann.

 

Jordana Horn is a TODAY Moms contributor, lawyer, journalist, writer, and mother of three.