Middle child horoscope

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I’ll admit I haven’t read the book which is the subject of this article, but if the uncritical article is any guide to its contents, I won’t be anytime soon.

It’s not that the hypothesised ‘middle child syndrome’ is not of interest to society – on the contrary, it has been the stuff of myth ever since I can remember, and so I would welcome any analysis of it in the style of the ‘Myth Busters’.

However, reading quotes from its author only leads to disappointment if you were after some real research into this area.

What we have from her are not revealing snippets of data, but rather a collection of horoscope-style generalisations and motherhood statements, which could really apply to anyone depending on when you ask.

Of most concern are her own words that she wrote the book:

“..to dispel the idea that middles are resentful and angry.”

This smacks of reaching a conclusion, or holding an opinion, and then going out to find evidence which supports it (while at the same time probably discarding evidence which doesn’t). See this link to confirmation bias.

So back to her characterisation of middle-born. She says of them:

  • great benefits in the areas of independence, stable relationships and job satisfaction
  • often make the best leaders, diplomats and marital partners
  • middle-borns have these great negotiating skills and they’re innovators
  • Their ability to think outside the box is something I’d like people to recognise
  • often show a heightened degree of empathy
  • They’re more likely to work for non-profits
  • Middles seem more likely to have more children themselves. They like the feeling of community
  • they may be more adventurous within their relationships
  • One study showed they were less judgmental on sexual behaviour
  • One of the things they’re really good at is compromise
So, are the attributes of middle-borns clear to you? I thought not. This is just a bunch of homespun philosophy, on a par with horoscopes, palm reading, myers-briggs personality typing, and a whole range of cold-reading stock phrases.
This type of generalisation is just juvenile; take a look at her ludicrous closing quote:
“When I go to a university faculty meeting, there are way more first-borns and there is a lot of arguing. They’re not very good at compromise.”
And the alarm bells go up a notch when the author starts quoting ‘famous’ examples to underline the theory – using Bill Gates. She says:

“Everyone assumes he’s a first-born. His older sister is an accountant and fits very well with what a first-born is supposed to be. Gates not only exhibits the leadership and innovative skills that middle-born children often excel in, but his philanthropic efforts fit within the group’s traits.”

This is akin to saying that all mass-murdering dictators have facial hair. So what? Is facial hair a predictor of genocide?
I would challenge the author to use her ‘findings’ in a predictive way – a good test of a theory – by providing her a large group of people, and asking her to assess whether they are 1st, 2nd, 3rd born or whatever.
I’m betting she would do no better than chance. But then again, I’m a skeptic.

One thought on “Middle child horoscope

    Chris said:
    October 25, 2011 at 9:22 am

    That does it. I’m gonna have three kids and I’m drowning the first and last. The survivor will make me rich.

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