Monday, January 26, 2009

In The Middle

I came across a good article today at one of the Pyschology sites I frequent, and it was talking about the bond between siblings and it briefly talked about birth order. You know, the supposed temperaments of children based on their age/status in the sibling line. I am a middle child, with an older brother and younger sister. Both of my siblings are COMPLETELY different from me. My brother is more set in his ways, kinda one sided, listens to rap, is really smart however chooses not to pursue higher education, and is very very unconcerned with the choices that others make. My sister is set in her ways but still gives a little leeway here and there for any hitches that might come up along the way. She is definitely more open to change than I am, yet rarely makes it a habitual occurrence. She is multi-sided, depending on what response she wants to receive, listens to tejano, rap and pop music (variety!). She is super sweet, but not very focused when it comes to making necessary decisions. She's primarily concerned with the choices that others make as it pertains to how they affect her. I see the world in so many multi-colors and textures. I'm not all that smart, but I have a drive to learn more and more every day. I listen to more emo-type music as well as some top 40, and alternative rock. I don't always embrace change so willingly and I like to have a game plan and steps. I'm the idealist in my family and always want to be the peacemaker. And I have an amazing stubborn streak. I am constantly concerned with the choices that others make as it pertains to how it affects others.

Don't you feel sorry for my parents already? ;)

Here are some snippets of what I read today in relation to being a middle child:

Birth order personalities
Oldest kids tend to emerge strong confident leaders. For example, almost all of the U.S. Presidents were either the first-born child or the first-born son in their families. And, all but two of the first astronauts sent into space were first-borns. The oldest child or the firstborn is always going to be the most anticipated and exciting for the parent. Parents are nervous and making a trial run of their parenting skills. Every first is something new and exciting to celebrate. Plus, the baby gets full parental time and attention. However, as a child gets older frustrations can develop as oldest children tend to have more parental restrictions than younger siblings. Older children also may have the added responsibility of taking care of their younger brothers or sisters.

Adding second and third children greatly impacts the family structure, and a middle child is created. Yes, the “Middle Child Syndrome” is very real. Middle kids bemoan their fate as being ignored and often grow resentful of all the parental attention given to the oldest and the baby of the family, and feel short-shifted. Three kids triangulate sibling relationships, with one child at any given point feeling like the odd man out from the chumminess of the other two.

Parents tend to be much more easy-going, less anxious, and less demanding with second and third children. Thus many middle children grow up with a more relaxed attitude towards life than their older siblings; though they have to compete for family attention against the milestones set by the oldest, and growing up in their shadow. Middle children have to try a little harder to “be heard” or get noticed. The middle child usually has to fight harder for the attention of their parents and therefore crave the family spotlight. They may feel that they do not get as much praise as the older children for simple firsts like tying a shoe or riding a bike. Those things just become expected.

The baby of the family basks in the sentimentality of being the last child, and are basically spoiled rotten. The youngest children tend to be most affectionate, and more sophisticated than their peers without older siblings to show them the ropes.

Middle children
Middle kids are said to be great negotiators and peacemakers, with laid-back attitudes and a love of socializing. As such, they're thought to be natural schmoozers and consensus builders when they grow up. According to Linda Dunlap, Ph.D., a birth-order--theory expert and professor of psychology at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, they're the most likely to move far from home once they grow up, partly because they're seeking a clear identity after having spent their early years sandwiched between sibs.

Some middle kids suffer from the firstborn's long shadow, and because of it, it's said, are prone to rebelliousness and competitiveness.

Middle Children: Finding Their Own Pride of Place
by Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P.
reviewed by Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Oldest and youngest children can usually find reasons to be glad about their place in the family. Not so middle children. They often aren't the biggest and strongest, they aren't the babies who get away with murder, they aren't really anything special, at least in their own minds. Sometimes they feel invisible.

But this uncomfortable feeling of not having a defined place in the family may actually turn out to be an advantage. Unlike first children, who often define success by their ability to meet their parents' expectations, middle children are more prone to rebel against the status quo. This observation is the main point of a fascinating book, Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives, by Frank J. Sulloway. The book also argues that birth order--the middle position in particular--is one of the prime forces behind the scientific and social revolutions that drive history forward. I'd wager that most middle children had no idea that they were so important.

Another result of having a less well-defined place in the family is that middle children often reach outside the family for significant relationships. They make close circles of friends. During adolescence, in particular, they may be especially influenced by their peer groups, often to their parents' dismay.
For any middle child, the biggest point of comparison is the sibling who falls just before them in the birth order. Often, rather than competing head-on with that older sibling, the middle child chooses to go in a different direction. If the older sibling is a great student, for example, the middle child may become a musician or an athlete. (There's some research suggesting that middle children are more likely to engage in dangerous sports, perhaps because they are used to taking risks.) By choosing a niche that isn't already occupied, a middle child increases his chances of standing out and being noticed, and decreases the risk of negative comparisons.

Middle children, who are usually smaller than their older siblings while they're growing up, often learn non-aggressive strategies to get what they want, such as negotiation, cooperation, or seeking parental intervention. As the underdogs themselves in many sibling conflicts, middle children often develop a fine sense of empathy with the downtrodden, as do many youngest children. Where first and last children may tend to be self-centered, middle children often take a genuine interest in getting to know other people. Being in the middle, they may find it easier to look at interpersonal situations from various points of view.

For the most part, I do agree with these things. As I was finishing up the article on the first site I was checking out, the author added this to the end, and it's really good for thought. No matter what order you are in, you should definitely ask yourself these questions:

Escape your family role
Do you still react to others the way you behaved with your siblings? Dr Dorothy Rowe suggests asking yourself the following questions to find out if you’re still playing your childhood roles:

Do you feel you have to be in charge because you’re more responsible than the others, or see yourself as the baby, needing to be looked after?
Do you compete with colleagues to win the approval of your boss?
In your family, were you ‘the good one’ or ‘the bad one’? Do you feel that others still see you this way? Are you still trying to fill your role because that’s what people expect of you?
Do you see your relationships with contemporaries as power struggles that you must win, or people will despise you? Or do you expect that in a power struggle you’ll always lose, just as you always lost to your siblings?
Do you measure everyone you meet against your siblings, and find others lacking?


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