Second child/middle child Syndrome


“Hafiz is more naughty than My older son, Razi , he is always getting into trouble at school and does not take his schoolwork seriously. Hafiz is also easygoing and has many friends so he often gets into mischief. However, he has his own mind, confident and more independent than Razi “

Usually this is how parents talk about their second child; it’s becoming a common thing you hear. The arrival of a second child be it planned or unplanned is usually celebrated with less fanfare and excitement as the first child arrival. This is because most parents feel that they have been through the situation and the experience is nothing new. As such parents tend to neglect the emotional and mental needs of the second child.

Does birth order really affect an individual? Yes it does as shown by research of Alfred Adler. Birth order often can leave an indelible impression on the individual’s style of life, which is a habitual way of dealing with the tasks of friendship, love, and work. Other birth order factors that should be considered are: the spacing in years between siblings; the total number of children; and the changing circumstances of the parents over time.

According to Adler the second or middle child often have sense of not belonging, they fight to receive attention from parents and they feel insecure easily. The middle child or second child lacks drive and actually looks for direction from the first child. They tend to go with the flow of things. Adler also describes them as a natural mediator and is usually the peacemaker in the family. They would have many friends due to their easygoing nature and is loyal to their friends. The child may have even temper or take it or leave attitude. Adler believes that the middle child feels squeezed out of a position of privilege and significance. As such they are compelled internally to find peace within the family.

As such the younger sibling would learn the rule of the game as they acknowledge the power of the first child. The second child quickly and develop different personalities from their older sibling. Hence the first and second child pattern of behavior seems to be polar opposites (Silverman 1988).

Cornell (1984) did a study and found that found that second born children who are recognized as being gifted are better adjusted than second born who are not recognized. The child is described as more emotionally stable, more controlled, less tense or frustrated, less anxious and neurotic. Parents even described them as being better adjusted than the first child.

In summary second born are described as being more flexible or cooperative yet competitive. They are calmer, generous, some more rebellious, adventurous and easygoing. They are peacemaker and strong negotiators, however they are more secretive than first born as they are used to being independent. If you are a second born you are in good company as Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Princess Diana to name a few are second born.

As parents and educators it is important to identify each child as different individuals. The relationship with each child should be established and separate. Parents should not compare their children because this would instigate the child to behave otherwise. As parents you would have difficulty getting through your second child at times. You find that they build walls around them which are negative attitude or sarcasm, be patient and break these walls down with kindness, affection and love. They may not respond to your affections because they want to make parents feel guilty about not spending enough attention to them. Don’t be demotivated , they actually cherish the attention that you give them. They would also tend to get into trouble as a form of seeking attention, try not to reprimand them all the time. Instead try to discipline them via positive reinforcements and reward good behavior. As a second child they may be used to the ignorance they faced earlier on, some may not be ambitious as they feel their efforts won’t be recognized. Parents should utilize positive reinforcement and praise each child to acknowledge their presence and make them feel special.

“There is in every child at every stage a new miracle of vigorous unfolding “ Erik Erikson

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Dr. Nazariah Aiza HarunDr. Nazariah Aiza Harun is a Psychiatrist at a government hospital. She is currently attached to Hospital Sultan Abdul Halim, Sungai Petani, Kedah. She attained her Doctor of Medicine (MD) from UPM and went to UM for postgraduate studies in Master of Psychological Medicine. She is currently undergoing her subspecialty training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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