Whether you're the oldest child, the baby, or smack in the middle, birth order matters. Being the center, but not the center of attention, can be an especially polarizing place in the sibling hierarchy. When middle children share their stories about what it was like growing up, middle child syndrome seems like a genuine issue.
The idea that parents treat middle children differently from their siblings ties into the belief that parents, subconsciously or deliberately, change their parenting behavior for individual kids. They might pamper or treat the youngest sibling like a baby, or allow them to get away with more. Parents might pressure the oldest child to excel, meanwhile. And they might be more easygoing with middle children, but at the same time pay less attention to them.
Middle children who share their stories on Reddit help shed light on what it's like to occupy this midway family position.
From Redditor /u/omgimabagel:
Middle child here, I've always felt less important than the other two. The younger was always the one doing the best in school (learning from the older and my mistakes), and the older was always focused on the most since he was growing up first and would need the most guidance.
Basically, I was just not getting any attention, but that ended up being a good thing I think because it made me more independent now.
From Redditor /u/sayaandtenshi:
Well, I'm a middle child and here is why I'm the most bothered. My older sister, when she used to live here, would get away with everything, absolutely everything but I couldn't copy her because I would get in trouble. My little sister, being babied by my mom and dad, would also get away with everything because she was still learning, but I should know better than to do what she does.
So I always was in the most trouble and got blamed for pretty much everything.
From Redditor /u/Trebreezy36:
Being too young to hang out with my brother and too old to hang out with my sister. My brother is 2 years older than me and our sister is 7 years younger than me, so I was always too old to do things with her and her friends, and when I turned 18 she was too young to do anything with me.
My brother and I are closer in age but when he turned 18 I was left on my own. He could go and do whatever he wanted and I got stuck baby-sitting our sister. That’s what sucked the most.
From a former Redditor:
As a middle child, I definitely see myself as the black sheep, but anecdote is not evidence, so I can only speculate. The youngest often gets mollycoddled to an extent while the elder children pass milestones first. The first kid to pass his driving test is a great feat; by the time it's the middle kid's turn it's old hat.
For the youngest kid who will always be the baby, it becomes a special event again.