Saturday, November 1, 2008

Backstory : Birth Order - The Middle Child

Continuing the study of birth order for use in creating characters, this article will cover the middle child. Understanding the affect on birth order on an individual’s character, personality and traits helps authors provide three-dimensional characters in their novels. Birth order not only affects behavior, relationship, but also tends to affect career choices, and family dysfunction skews the details, making the character more complex.

Characteristics
The middle child has competition. He gets less attention than his older sibling. He realizes that he can never equal the success and special place that the first born holds in the family. While he may first struggle to be noticed, he finally realizes it is easier to look for company and rewards outside the home. Peers become important and tend to have greater influence to the child than their parents.

Traits:
• Feels invisible
• Uncompetitive
• Ordinary
• Resents comparison to siblings
• Finds meaningful relationships outside the home
• Seeks approval from friends
• Takes on values outside the home
• May rebel against status quo

Family Relationships:
• Parents have less time
• Parents don’t fuss over the child nor store memorabilia
• Parents are more tired, allow child more freedom
• Parents show disappointment in child’s lack of drive and/or success

Results:
• can feel unloved
• chooses different interests than sibling
• often chooses more dangerous activities
• takes more risks
• has empathy for those less fortunate
• tends to be a caregiver and peacemaker

Family Dysfunction (defined in Backstory: Birth Order - The First Born)
When the family encounters serious problems and family issues that distorts the normal relationships, the middle child’s traits will become skewed by the situation and traits can develop to help the individual cope.
• blends into the woodwork
• withdraws and becomes even quieter
• feel inner anger

Career and the Middle Child
Surveys and studies show the middle child is good at compromise and negotiation. Since his drive is not highly developed nor his confidence, they will seek work that doesn’t result in needing to climb the ladder for success. He is happier in a career that doesn’t have pressure, such as factory worker or technician. Middle children often become involved in careers that are service oriented, ones that provide help to others, such as: nursing, fire workers, care-givers, teachers, or law enforcement.

This information can help you create interesting and realistic characters, especially when you play one birth order character against another.

3 comments:

Avily Jerome said...

Great stuff!
Thanks for your insight!

Shelley said...

I'm a middle child, and while I do see some things in there that describe me, a lot of it doesn't. That's not to say that your article is wrong...I'm just the exception to the rule, LOL!

All kidding aside, that's a great article and will hopefully help a lot of writers! Thanks for posting it.

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Thanks. I'm glad you find this helpful. Yes, Shelley -- circumstances to arise that affects the birth order traits but they are often very close to accurate. I have two siblings. I'm the oldest and we fit the pattern very well, but it's not perfect. Other family dynamics can make a difference. You notice that dysfunctional families influence birth order as I mentioned in the articles. The distance between births can also cause differences.

Still I know you'll find it helpful.
Gail