I am a middle child. I am two years and one month younger than my brother. I am one month shy of being five years older than my sister. The experts argue back and forth as to whether or not birth order affects personality and future behavior. I think it absolutely does. I feel how I was treated as a middle child directly contributed to my having borderline personality disorder. I have to tell myself I was treated the way I was because I was a middle child. Otherwise that confirms my deepest fear of being a total piece of shit and completely unlovable.
Wikipedia states that having middle child syndrome is akin to having an identity crisis. It “…commonly affects children who were born with an equivalent number of older and younger siblings. Middle children are often ignored by their parents who give more attention to their older and younger siblings. They are often compared to or chastised for not being like their elder siblings, or for not being a better example for their younger siblings. These factors usually create feelings of neglect, loneliness, and unimportance.”
Wow. So, middle children that don’t have parents who know how to properly juggle multiple children end up being ignored. It seems when they do receive attention, it is to point out how they are not as good as their older or younger sibling. Feelings of neglect, loneliness, and unimportance? That sounds like a recipe for BPD to me!
There is a really great article I found on some parent site. I really just wanted to cut and paste the entire thing, but I suppose I will have to settle for including the link here, instead. This article starts by jumping right in and stating that being the middle child could very well affect one’s personality, as birth order has been known to play a major role in the personality traits and other characteristics that children develop. This article goes on to say that the middle child tends to feel like they don’t belong, and struggle to find their place, both in their family, and in the world at large. The older and younger child most usually receive the most attention, so the middle child feels unwanted and not as important as the others. They begin to feel inferior to others, and believe that their thoughts, opinions, and contributions do not hold much weight. These feelings of worthlessness and inferiority can obviously lead to depression, among other things. Something else this article mentioned that hadn’t before occurred to me was that middle children tend to be more withdrawn in social situations. They prefer to spend time with themselves – as they have grown accustomed to doing this in a family where they feel ignored – and often don’t know how to properly interact with others due to their loner-like behavior and extreme shyness.
Now, of course, not everyone is the same. Not everyone who experiences the constant downfalls of being a middle child will develop borderline personality disorder. Not everyone who is a middle child will even have any kinds of these severe emotional problems. It’s hard for me to imagine, but I’m told there really are parents out there who love and care for their children. Even their children who were born smack dab in the middle. Some parents are actually capable of treating each of their children the same. Well, not the SAME, but with the same amount of love, attention, and respect as they give their other children.
Many sufferers of BPD experience sad, lonely, unhealthy childhoods. Some common denominators are usually repeated abuse (be it emotional, physical, or sexual), inconsistent and unsupportive care, early separation from one or both parents, familial neglect, and having caregivers who invalidate thoughts and emotions. People with borderline personality disorder are conditioned to care for and comfort themselves. They learn to keep their real thoughts and feelings hidden and instead become a chameleon, adapting to whatever situation they happen to find themselves in. They struggle with feelings of self-loathing, inferiority, and low self-worth.
I can see a lot of connections between being a middle child – or, more specifically, having middle child syndrome – and having borderline personality disorder. In both cases, the person feels less than. In both cases, the person has to learn to adapt to abandonment or neglect. Both feel ignored and invalidated. Both long for love and attention while simultaneously struggling with trust issues. Both learn to keep their true thoughts and feelings hidden because they know their emotions are either ignored or flat-out unwanted by their supposed loved ones.
I know that the causes of borderline personality disorder are debated, and it’s very likely that there is more than one cause, but I firmly believe that having a childhood like one described above immensely increases one’s chance of having this disorder. Whenever a child is neglected, unloved, abused in any way, invalidated, criticized and put down on a regular basis, they run the risk of becoming an unhealthy adult with emotional issues. I haven’t been able to find much online about the relationship between being a middle child and having BPD, but I wonder what percentage of BPD sufferers were middle children? I wonder if any studies have been done to test this? Again, I wasn’t able to locate much on the internet about this topic, so my guess is that no major studies have been done. Definitely an interesting thought for the future, though.