As a first-born this comes as a shock!
All the research I have seen so far suggests that it is the first-born who tend to be outstanding in their field, natural leaders, and more intelligent to boot!
The youngest children have a reputation as being more creative but there wasn’t a lot of research about the middle child.
A few years ago economists in Norway found that middle born children were less likely to go to prison than their siblings but that was it.
In a book; “The secret power of middle children” psychologist Catherine Salmon and writer Katrin Schumann suggest that we have had it all wrong and that it’s the middle born ones who have all the advantages.
Rather than look at research regarding birth order they looked at middle-borns in their own right. They suggest that middle children are excellent negotiators and justice-seekers and are more successful at effecting change. They also claim they have stronger friendships and longer marriages as well as more fulfilling careers.
Squeezed by their siblings middle children learn to be independent and adaptable early on and to think outside the box. They also seek to achieve compromise and value fairness.
The authors claim that first-borns work on strategies to establish authority whilst last-borns go for the sympathy vote.
Middle children however have more capacity for empathy and are good listeners.
A French study of undergraduates showed that middles were more trusting and co-operative. Other studies show that they may be more generous and concerned with social harmony, care more about injustice and distrust power and authority. They are also likely to make better parents – although they can have disparate styles and be either more permissive or more authoritarian.
Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, John F Kennedy, the Dalai Lama, Charles Darwin, David Cameron, Tony Blair, both the Beckhams, and Nigella Lawson, were all middle children.
For me the problem with studies like this is that there are lots of middles (and first-borns for that matter) who aren’t outstanding and identifying people in the public eye as examples isn’t necessarily comparing like with like.
And now the film of the book
Original version published 2011