What Middle and Only Children Have In Common
MIDDLE CHILDREN AND ONLY CHILDREN-A COMMONALITY OF SORTS
Middle and Only Children- Let's Bond
There are no birth orders more disparate in nature than that of middle and only children. Middle children are often overlooked, ignored, and not appreciated for their uniqueness. They are often considered an appendage such as A's older sibling and/or B's younger sibling. They are often the most nebulous birth order imaginable. They are often hard to categorize regarding birth orders. They are neither here nor there.
Only children, on the contrary, are the center of their parents' universe. They are often lionized and adulated by their parents. They are appreciated for the unique individuals that they are. They are often one of a kind as there are no other birth orders like them. They are the kings and queens of their world as they will never be dethroned.
Even though their respective birth orders are quite different, they have many things in common. Both birth orders are often misunderstood by others. The middle child is misunderstood because of his/her nebulous status of neither being the oldest nor the youngest child in the family. There is actually no clear cut pattern regarding the status of being the middle child in the family. He/she is in the birth order's no man's land. He/she is considered the in between child.
Middle children are often the everyperson in the familial birth order. He/she fulfills the familial role best suited for the moment. He/she can elect to be in the role of the quiet peacemaker between contentious older and younger siblings. He/she can decide to just to fade anonymously into the background rather than to make a scene within the family constellation.
As a result of being the in between person in the family, the middle child often elects to be the voice of the underdog, the voiceless, and the oppressed. They are also the most democratic and conciliatory of all the birth orders. They know firsthand the art of compromise as they had to make peace with either an older and/or younger sibling.
Only children are misunderstood because it is widely assumed that they have no siblings, they are often selfish and spoiled. People just do not know how to take only children. They assume that because there are no siblings in the household, only children often do not know how to share nor properly interface with same age peers. They further maintain that only children are often quirky in their mannerisms.
Only children often receive more individualized attention from their parents in addition to having more financial resources allotted to them than children in multichild families. However, this does not make them "spoiled". Even though only children do not have any siblings, they interact with their friends and extended family peers. Also they have their parents to interact with. So they are not missing out on interpersonal relationships because they have no siblings.
Because the only child's main relationship is with his/her parents, he/she has an early maturity that a child from a multichild family does not possess. The vocabulary of an only child is often more advanced than a child with siblings because of his/her main interaction with a parent. The only child also has a high level of self-sufficiency and independence because he/she does not have a sibling to depend upon. This factor also leads to an only child being quite creative, imaginative, and quite comfortable in his/her own skin.
Only children, like middle children, cannot be easily categorized. The only child is the most unique birth order there is. He/she is neither the oldest, middle, and youngest child. He/she is an individual unto himself/herself.
Middle children and only children are often maligned by others. Middle children because they are in the quite enviable position of neither being the responsible and powerful oldest children nor the pampered and mollycoddled youngest children. Jan Brady was the quintessential middle child. No matter what she did, it was either Marcia or Cindy who got all of the credit and/or the attention. Jan Brady was just part of the scenery, nothing more.
The middle child is just there. He/she is always the understudy in the family. The middle child is often derided as the schizoid in the family. He/she have to adopt a variation of personalities just to function within the familial perimeter. He/she is often thought as to not have a distinct personality of his/her own. He/she is always constantly compared to either an older and/or younger sibling.
Oftentimes, middle children are not appreciate for the unique individuals they are. They are at times considered a personae non gratae by their families, almost like a Cinderella. They also receive the most negative differential treatment of all birth order types. In many families, it is the middle child who is often disfavored by their parents.
Many middle children are negatively affected by the differential treatment they received as children. As a result of these often negative differential treatment, they become anonymous because they believe that they have no worth as a human being. Others become compliant people pleasers in order to gain acceptance and approval. Some even become highly vocal in order assert their personhood while many more elect to go their own independent way away from their respective families.
Only children are maligned because they are perceived to be bratty, spoiled, and self-centered. It is perceived that only children are "lacking" in important aspects of life experience because they have no siblings. It is further presumed by people that because of this factor, they do not know the art of compromise and always must have their way in a relationship.
People maintain that because only children have a close relationship with their parents, they are totally dependent. It is commonplace for people to contend that parents of only children are overcontrolling and overprotective of their children, not permitting the necessary independence to develop into self-sufficient adults. It is thought that only children are prima donnas who constantly expect to be the ultimate center of attention because that was in their family environment.
Yes, only children are extremely close with their parents. However, it does not necessarily mean that their parents are overcontrolling and overprotective. Of course, their parents are concerned with them but they believe that it is necessary to teach their children how to be independent and self-sufficient as they will not always be there. In fact, only children are the most independent of all birth order types because they did not have any siblings to depend upon. This results in them seeking other avenues for expression and relying upon themselves for company and other ventures.
Contrary to atavistic assumptions that only children seek attention, this is untrue. Only children receive so much attention from their parents that many are often extremely low keyed. They are comfortable in their assurances that they are loved by their parents so they do not have any drama regarding this issue.
Middle and only children are often pitied and/or disrespected by others because the former is either forgotten by other family members and the latter because he/she is considered alone within the family constellation. In this society, either the oldest and/or youngest children receive the most respect, attention, and adulation. The oldest child because he/she is considered the leader and the responsible one while the youngest is doted upon because he/she is the jewel and the baby of the family. The middle child is just considered quite nebulous and indescribable by other family members and outsiders. What is this middle child exactly, others say, not expecting any definite answer. The middle child is just a family dilemma so to speak.
The only child is considered to be so alone-no siblings, poor dear people say. How could a child reasonably grow up with any sibling contact. Oh the horror, people bemoan either silently or loudly depending upon their respective mood. Who is this child, they queried. So "unusual" is he/she! No child should be "alone"- no not ever! How horrible indeed they cry!
Middle and only children are often considered outsiders by the main culture due to their respective birth orders. They are often an anathema because they are in birth order positions which are often difficult to describe. They are often viewed as the antithesis to the other delineated birth order positions. In other words, middle and only children often feel quite alienated; the former because he/she often feels quite overshadowed and treated as a nonperson and the latter because it is believed that he/she is the odd person out because he/she has no siblings.
Recently, more positive aspects are beginning to be associated with both the middle and only child. Their respective birth orders are beginning to be appreciated and respected. There are books beginning to be written on these birth orders such as The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected & Remarkable Ability by Catherine Salmon, Ph.D. and Katrin Schumann and The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide by Susan Newman, Ph.D. Coincidentally, Dr. Newman is the middle child in her family. Finally, middle and only children are finally being appreciated for their unique characteristics.
No matter what middle and only children do, in the eyes of many people, they are often in a Catch-22 situation. For example, if the middle child expressed that he/she is unappreciated and overlooked, it is well he/she is nonassertive and lackluster. The sentiment is what else can one expect from a middle child. Look at what he/she has to endure. If he/she is the family negotiator, it is well he/she has to play both sides of the fence, typical middle child behavior.
If the middle child has it bad, the only child has it even worse. If the only child acts up, look at that spoiled, selfish brat. He/she is such a problem-well, that is what you get when you do not have any siblings to interact with. Conversely, he/she is independent-oh, he/she is such a quirky loner who is always alone-doesn't he/she like human interaction! No winning in any situation when it comes to being either a middle and/or only child! They are in purgatory either way they choose!
When it comes to stereotypes, the middle and only child receive more than their fair share of negative stereotypes. The middle child is considered confused, an underachiever, failure, squeezed out, and nondescript. The only child is considered to be a social misfit, selfish, spoiled, attention seeking, bratty, and a prima donna. They are subjected to such unbelievable prejudices which would make them want to go on a Hunnish rampage! They are also expected not to achieve anything of note and if they do succeed, people often express bewilderment and total surprise as middle children are such "underachievers" while only children are so "dependent"! How atavistic can one get regarding such negativity!
Both middle and only children are considered to be quite maladjusted adults. Middle children because they are squeezed out by their older and younger siblings. Furthermore, according to such pundits, they also have low self-esteem because they did not receive the prerequisite attention from their parents who showered such attention on the older and younger siblings. Only children are so-called maladjusted adults because they grew up in an environment without siblings. The pundits maintained that because of a siblingless environment, they have poor social skills and do not know how to interface well with people. They further add that only children are so dependent upon their parents that it is hard for them to attain independence. Middle and only children are often viewed as guilty until they prove otherwise. Middle and only children maladjusted adults- just tell that to middle children such as Marilu Henner, Donald Trump, and Madonna and to only children such as Betty White, Charlize Theron, and Condoleeza Rice! Maladjusted- balderdash, how dare they indeed!
In summation, middle and only children are the most maligned of all birth orders. Even though they are of different birth orders, they have more things in common that what is originally thought. Both birth orders are often extremely misunderstood and considered outsiders in this society. They are also the most difficult of birth orders to be clearly categorized. Until now, both birth orders were the least respected and the most vilified. Come on now, give the middle and only child some slack and love. In the words of Aretha Franklin in her immortal song, they want that one precious word-RESPECT and they want it now !
© 2012 Grace Marguerite Williams
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