First aired on The Current (26/08/11)
Lisa from The Simpsons. Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle. And of course, Jan from The Brady Bunch. In popular culture, the middle child has usually been portrayed as an oft-neglected oddball or wallflower — talented and intelligent perhaps, but overlooked by their parents because of their birth order, and left to fend for themselves emotionally.
Psychologist Catherine Salmon says research has shown that these stereotypes aren't altogether exaggerated. One statistic she likes to cite is that middle-born children generally receive less tuition money from their parents than their older and younger siblings.
"It's certainly true to a certain extent that [middle-born children] are neglected in the sense of being overlooked," she said during a recent interview with The Current. "They tend to not get as much attention from their parents as children of other birth orders do. It's true that parents often put higher expectations on their first-born child so they focus a lot more on that child in comparison to the middle one."
But Salmon, who isn't a middle-born child herself, wants to bust any myths of the middle child as the envy-ridden second fiddle in the family. In The Secret Power of Middle Children, which she co-authored with Katrin Schumann, Salmon points out that middle-born children grow up to be emotionally well-adjusted, often more so than their siblings. In fact, middle children are less likely to seek therapy. They are also known to be less predictable and more open-minded. Perhaps this is because middle-born children tend to seek out their own unique identities, resulting in a higher level of self-esteem than the stereotypes would suggest.
"What's really consistent with middle-borns is that they're quite different from their first-born siblings," Salmon said. "They deliberately go out to try to be different to avoid this sort of comparison that was going on between Jan and Marcia [Brady]. Nobody wants to be compared to someone who has an inherent advantage because they're older. So there's often this desire to be quite different."
The Secret Power of Middle Children
by Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schumann Buy this book at:
"Using unpublished and little-known research from evolutionary psychology, sociology, and communications, The Secret Power of
Middle Children illustrates how adaptive strategies middleborns develop during childhood translate into stronger friendships, lasting marriages, successful careers, and effective parenting.
Over seventy million adult Americans are middle children, and
forty percent of young American families have middle children. With
constructive advice on how to maximize the benefits and avoid the
pitfalls of being a middle child, Salmon and Schumann help middle
children at any age (and their parents) use birth order as a
strategy for success.
Read more at Penguin Group