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A Sibling Rivalry

Oldest vs. Middle vs. Youngest Child


Photo by Blair Bayliss/Maclay Andalusian


The debate over which sibling status is the best, oldest, middle or youngest has been constantly argued for years. Each sibling has a unique value to bring to the family, with different roles that vary depending on the family dynamic. There are well known stereotypes about each position. The oldest siblings are known as the responsible leaders, the middle children are always forgotten and the youngest siblings are the spoiled favorites. Every sibling status has stereotypes and pros and cons, so the question of which sibling is the best is difficult to answer. However, each sibling has arguably good and bad experiences.


The firstborn of the family, the oldest children, are typically seen as the leaders. The oldest children have qualities of responsibility, entitlement and maturity which come from being an authoritative figure for their younger siblings. In most families, the oldest child has many pros. For example, the oldest child is most likely to succeed because of the discipline they receive while being responsible for their younger siblings. The eldest child gets to be a role model and their younger siblings can look up to them for inspiration and advice. The oldest child also gets the first chance to do things. They typically get their own room and new clothes, so they don't have to worry about sharing or hand-me-downs.


However, the status of the oldest child has many cons. They are typically the role of the babysitter, and the responsibility over the younger siblings can be overwhelming. Many families leave the care of the younger siblings into the hands of the eldest child, which is unfair and overbearing. Parents are typically stricter on the eldest child because they are still figuring out how to be a good parent. Also, the pressure to set a good example for their siblings can be very immense and burdening. The role of the oldest child has its perks, and at the end of the day, it can be very rewarding, but also very difficult.


The middle child is typically seen as the forgotten child because they are caught up in the mix between the oldest and the youngest child. Still, the role of the middle child has pros which include the ability to be a good mediator. In most families, the middle child is excluded from chaotic arguments that stem from the oldest and youngest sibling, so they learn how to stand in the middle. This skill is extremely useful, and a great part of being the middle child. The skill of being a good mediator also teaches the skill of being a good negotiator, because they can see both sides of a conflict. In addition, the middle children can be granted more freedom, because parents are usually busy being hard on the eldest child and babying the youngest. Being granted more freedom also brings the skill of independence.


While the role of the middle child has its pros, it also has many disadvantages. Many middle children have the “middle child syndrome”, where they often feel forgotten about and neglected by their parents. Middle children normally have to fight for attention from their parents because the oldest and youngest children are usually the main focus. This results in them being overlooked and undervalued, which can belittle self confidence. They usually have to share rooms and get hand-me-down clothes, which can be frustrating. Being the middle child can be difficult, but it also has many benefits.


The youngest child is stereotypically the favorite because they are the babies of the family. Advantages of being the youngest include more privileges at an early age, because parents can be less strict. For the most part, parents give the youngest child a good amount of attention and more individualized care, since their parenting skills have broadened. Youngest children get to enjoy protection from their older siblings and have role models to look up to.


Nonetheless, the youngest child also has its cons. They are constantly being compared to their older siblings, and have immense amounts of pressure to live up to their standards. Since they are the baby of the family, they are taken less seriously and typically spoiled, which isn't fair for anyone. They usually have to share rooms and get hand-me-downs, and are the last ones to leave for college. So, being the youngest child can be lonely.


Each sibling plays a vital role for the function of the family dynamic. Each role contains many pros, but also many cons. The status of each sibling is extremely different and varies between each family.  Many people argue from their experience that a certain status is better or worse. However, it is difficult to determine which role is the best due to the various family dynamics. Each sibling has an important role, and each sibling has their separate struggles.

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Andy Poll

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