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I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Being stuck in the middle has it's perks"

Apr. 5 "Being stuck in the middle has it's perks": I cut out this article by Sarah Boesveld in the National Post in Sept. 3, 2011.  It talks about being a middle child and I'm a middle child so I had to cut it out.  I'm sure some of you guys are laughing at this part. 

I'm really interested in the birth order theory since I was a kid.  Probably because I read about it in one of my sister's teen magazines and we had a unit in gr. 9 health class.  This is a good psychology article.  It's about family and raising kids.  Here's the whole article:

Sandwiched between bossy, overachieving Wendy and sweet yet spoiled Kathryn, Janice Evans admits to being the stereotypical middle child, attracting far less attention from her parents, always trying to keep the peace and being overly giving of herself.

Even so, it seems the unfavourable position has worked out well for the 38-year-old London, Ont., mother of two. Studying to the point of physical exhaustion in high school helped her prepare for a career as a dedicated investment manager, she said. So, too, did all that negotiating with her sisters — the skill is critical to her job communicating with investment teams and clients. And that giving thing? Well, let’s just say her children are quite pleased to get what they want most of the time.

“[Growing up], I was always flying under the radar, total self-starter, did what I wanted to do, didn’t cause grief and if I ever wanted to challenge [my sisters] I just did it privately,” she said. “I could count on one hand the number of times my parents turned to me [with their full attention].”

While the prevailing wisdom pegs middle children as the underachievers in the family, overshadowed, untethered and resentful about their ranking, a new body of research smashes that stereotype with a bold proposition: Middles just might be the best poised to succeed in life.

The parental neglect, whether real or perceived, can turn children into independent, well-adjusted and empathetic adults who know how to negotiate and keep the peace at work, in their relationships and with their own kids, write Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schumann in their new book The Secret Power of Middle Children.

Middleborns like Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama are trailblazers and justice seekers with a drive and passion that set them apart from their attention-absorbing siblings, adds Ms. Salmon, who teaches and researches psychology at the University of Redlands in California.

“Even though middle children may in fact be overlooked, it doesn’t mean they don’t become high achieving or innovators,” she said. Just look at Madonna, Bill Gates and Donald Trump. Their middleton status often motivates them to work harder, she said, as they try to rise above the pack.

While there are stereotypes for every birth order — the oldest is usually pegged as responsible and conservative, the youngest free-spirited and rebellious — studies have shown middles have a bad rap, said Ms. Salmon, who grew up in Hamilton, Ont., as the baby of the family.

Descriptors such as “neglected, confused and envious” didn’t sound at all like her friendly, confident father, the second son of four, who put himself through Queen’s University’s engineering program and became the first in his family to earn a university degree. It also didn’t sound like any of her middle-child friends, one of whom she describes in the book as “reliable, generous, kind and dedicated.”

Her own studies show middle children tend to get less money from their parents for university tuition than their sisters and brothers receive. Another found middles to be more open to innovative ideas — a trait that’s even more pronounced in lastborns.

And while their desire for peace and equilibrium makes them “good friendship specialists,” sometimes the empathetic and trusting nature of middles can backfire on them, Ms. Salmon points out.

Being too much of a “pleaser” contributed to the demise of Ms. Evans’ marriage to someone she feels took advantage of that personality trait, she said. Her sisters also give her grief for putting her children first and catering to their every want and need instead of taking better care of herself.

True, middles aren’t known for their sky-high self-esteem. Research by Jeannie Kidwell at the University of Tennessee in the 1980s found middle children tend to have lower self-esteem than their siblings because they aren’t fawned over like firstborns and lastborns.

“Sometimes when other people start taking you for granted, it can make you sometimes internalize that and you feel ‘maybe I’m not all that,’” Ms. Salmon said. “There may be some advantages to the fact that they don’t have over-inflated self-esteem, because certainly that’s not a good thing particularly either.”

But to make up for any attention deficits in their family, middles will work harder to gain acknowledgment from their parents and their peers, whom they tend to gravitate toward if they’re not getting the attention at home, Ms. Salmon said. That kind of interaction turns them into more social creatures who are attuned to other peoples’ perspectives and motivations, she added — another score for the middle kid.

Growing up in Alberta, Kathy Riches was often on a more focused path than the sisters on either side of her. While they took a long time to decide what they wanted to do with their lives, the 52-year-old middle child was the first to get a job in a Hallmark shop at age 15 without any prodding.

“My parents were surprised because my older sister never had any ambition,” said the Calgarian, who works as a trader in the oil and gas industry. But unlike most middles, Ms. Riches’ parents did have high hopes she would pursue academics, since it clearly wasn’t going to happen with her big sister.

“[I was] striving to be perfect. I’d already set the bar really high. I don’t see my sisters having set the bar very high,” she said. While birth order traits are most pronounced in families with three siblings, all the same gender and fewer than five years apart, shifts do happen when, say, the oldest doesn’t completely fill the first-in-the-family role.

John F. Kennedy, the second boy in a family of nine, may never have entered politics if his older brother, who was being groomed for the job, didn’t die young, Ms. Salmon pointed out. Same thing with Richard Nixon, who assumed the role as eldest child when his older brother passed away.

“There are probably some benefits to being the first in terms of the parental expectations and the effort made by parents to fulfill those [wishes],” she said. “But there is a downside — firstborns are more likely to develop anxiety disorders; there’s a lot of pressure on them. Some hold up really well and some of them don’t.”
Julie Cole’s second-born daughter Posy took on a lot of responsibility in her family because her older brother Mack has autism.

“She’s incredibly responsible, efficient, effective, good at everything, does homework without being asked, highly reliable,” says the Burlington, Ont., mom of six.

Of course environmental factors, personality, gender and size of the family change the dynamics of birth order. And, to be sure, it’d be tough to find someone who encompasses all the classic traits of a middle, Ms. Salmon said. Some researchers, however, don’t subscribe to the middles-as-most-likely-to-succeed bill of goods.

Middleborns often rank highest on agreeableness during personality tests, said preeminent birth-order researcher Frank Sulloway, who serves as adjunct professor in the department of psychology at the University of California Berkeley. But the consistent finding that middles and other laterborns get fewer parental resources doesn’t set them up for greater success in life.

“It ranks back to this unique family niche and the fact that given they receive less parental investment they tend to become more peer oriented,” said the author of the 1996 book Born to Rebel, which presented controversial new research about birth order. “The bottom line is probably [middles] are less likely to succeed, but they are nicer people.”

Dalton Conley, author of 2004’s The Pecking Order, which followed children in America over the years through longitudinal studies and in-person interviews, said one would need to look far beyond a person’s place in the family to predict their future success.

“[Birth order] is not the major factor that’s going to determine your success in life. What I found was in two-child families, it didn’t matter at all. But when you got to three or more, on average the middleborns were worse off,” said the dean of social sciences at New York University. “They got less parental investment, they did worse school-wise as far as I could follow them. We know that how well you do in school translates to adult socioeconomic success in life.”

The middleborn conundrum is going to be less and less of an issue as the sizes of more affluent families shrink, Mr. Conley pointed out. It’s something Ms. Salmon’s heard before and her solution is this: Good qualities of middles can be coaxed out of children whatever their birth order.

“Those traits are really worthwhile and if we are going to have smaller families, we need to foster them,” she said.

She suggests parents let up a bit, quit all the supervision and expectation and let children be freer to make mistakes and carve their own paths.

Ms. Cole, for one, said she doesn’t expect all her children to be stellar students. And she finds it sad that some parents subscribe so closely to the notion that middles will feel left out that they don’t have more than three.

Any concerns Alison Kramer had about paying extra attention to her middle child faded the day little Benjamin, 7 — whom she describes as “very chill and happy in his own skin” — contentedly scrawled a picture of his family. “He said he liked being in the middle because there are always people around him,” she said from her Burlington, Ont., home. “I always thought being in the middle would be hard and it stuck with me. It made me so happy that he liked it.”


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