Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

I have heard that middle children are more adaptable. Does birth order really matter that much to how you develop and interact as an adult?


The Middle Child

Dear Middle Child,

The middle child syndrome sounds bad, however, new research shows that the middle child has enviable advantages. Contrary to what “The Brady Bunch”may have taught us, being the middle child can actually help you develop strong leadership qualities later on in life. Middle children are more apt to take risk and be creative. They learn in childhood cooperativeness, relationship-building skills and independence. 

Birth order has significant affects for several reasons. Most first-born and last-born children can suffer from the effects of over parenting. The middle children are largely left to their own devices, which allows more freedom to solve problems themselves and forge a path for themselves, mostly without parental intervention. 

First-born children tend to be under more pressure to live up to their parents’ expectations, which can lead to being more at risk for depression than second- or third-born children, according to one study. 

It may not be a coincidence that a staggering 52 percent of U.S. Presidents have been middle children. 

One bonus for the middle child is that middle children learn from the wisdom of their older siblings yet serve as mentors to their younger siblings. 

So over-parenting on young children or even young adult children can really have an influence in the birth order outcome attributes. Over-parenting creates a higher level of ineffective coping skills; this can impact jobs, relationships and important life choices. Since learning to cope with change or things not going your way is imperative to survive in our ever changing world. There is also a greater level of stress and anxiety with children who are subject to over-parenting. It creates a lower level of life satisfaction as well.

As children grow up, by its very nature they encounter a series of weaning experiences for children. From the time we are born, regardless of actual birth order, we are weaned from the comfort and safety of our mothers and fathers. Learning the lessons of how to get our needs met and then transitioning to meeting our own needs is not only essential to a person’s survival skills, but also to our psychological well-being. 

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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