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Birth Order: the Misunderstood Middle Child

The ranks of middle children include some famous names: Martin Luther King Jr., David Letterman, Madonna, and Princess Diana, to name a few. This might come as a surprise if you’re used to thinking of middle children as permanently stuck between their responsible older siblings and rebellious and beloved younger siblings, but then you might also be surprised what the research shows about middle children.

Of course every child and family is different, but that hasn’t stopped psychologists from studying sibling relationships and birth order and finding common characteristics among children, depending on when they were born. In general, middle children are not nearly as needy as popular culture depicts. Instead, they are social people and good at diplomacy, but they are also competitive and form strong friendships.

Other traits common to middle children include:

  • Less family oriented than their siblings and sometimes feel like they don’t belong
  • Less likely to act out or misbehave
  • Team players
  • Good at relating to people who are older and younger than them
  • Peer-oriented
  • Independent of the family
  • Cooperative


  • Brigham Young University
  • Birth Order Study.
    Encyclopedia of Creativity, Volume 1., pp
  • 189-202
  • Birth Order.
    Psychological Science
  • Birth Order Effects on Family and Achievement Within Families.
    The Journal of Individual Psychology
  • A Review of 200 Birth Order Studies: Lifestyle Characteristics.

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