Why are the most broadminded children those that were born in the middle?
Child psychology is a tricky, delicate, unpredictable subject. It is a science that spawns an entire academic arena, along with its relate research, clinical, and practical job fields. Its theories undergo trends and change with culture, as children undergo different influences, environments, and shift in both parent and peer relationships.
Yet, with all the intangibilities and vagueness, one constant remains: Middle children are odd. Perhaps this perception exists merely because there is a such a strong existing stereotype for first children and youngest children (the “baby” of the family), maybe it is because middle children struggle to simply find their appropriate place in the family hierarchy, or it might be simply because they are exposed to a truly unique set of circumstances, but in any case, middle children can often have a more open mind toward their world.
Why is that? The most significant reason is that they get the experience of having an older sibling with also having the experience of having a younger sibling. These parallel-yet-distinct settings provide differing developmental input, and as many oldest or youngest child can attest, such roles certainly give a maturing child a certain sort of lens through which learning and growth are accomplished. Being a middle child reaps the benefit of both age-structure roles.
Younger Child Advantage
The key to understanding the maturation advantages provided by having an older sibling is simply this idea: Lead by example. By having an older sibling, the younger child can watch as the elder sibling undergoes experiences first and, through his or her trial-and-error, learn by their experiences first. This can be as significant as a first day of school, the college application process, romantic relationships, or other landmark events, or simply be minor playtime observations that still prove developmentally valuable.
Older Child Advantage
Although maturing human beings may only realize it at a subconscious level, because younger siblings look up to their older siblings in a sense both literal and figurative in the home, this gives older children in a family the built-in motivation and responsibility to provide a positive example. This dynamic is so strong, in fact, that it can be seen as an indicator of family health: Obviously, not every older child cares this much about their younger siblings, nor do they take this responsibility seriously, but these issues can be seen and appropriately judged as detriments.
Because middle children are trying to juggle both seeking and providing an example, because they do not receive the attention of the younger child nor the trust of the older child, they will be stretching their minds as they attempt to conceive of the best ways to meet their needs and wants in their life development. They will desire creative solutions to their unique, varied obstacles in the social dynamic of a home, and it is this open curiosity that serves as the foundation of their broadmindedness. If the reason for their being broadminded can be boiled into one statement, it is simply this: Middle children are often so broadminded because they need to be.