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How Being the Middle Child Impacts Your Success in Business and Life Dr. Brittany McGeehan, a licensed psychologist based in Frisco, Texas, delves into the family dynamics that shape who we become.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • Birth order influences individual traits that can shape success in business and life.
  • The dual paths for middle children: adept negotiators maintaining balance versus those seeking to prove themselves, which could potentially hinder success.
  • Parents can nurture middle children to prevent them from becoming "little wallflowers" and help them reach their full potential.

Have you ever wondered how birth order impacts success in business and life?

Whether you're the oldest, middle, youngest or only child, your position within the family does affect your upbringing and future — though to an extent that varies considerably depending on individual circumstances.

Alfred Adler, a 19th- and early 20th-century Austrian psychotherapist and founder of individual psychology, introduced the idea that birth order affects a child's development — and claimed that "middle children are optimally positioned in the family and are characterized by emotional stability," per Scientific American.

Related: How Being the Oldest Child Impacts Your Success in Business and Life

Yet the so-called "middle child syndrome" has also come to be associated with children born between the oldest and youngest siblings. Middle children might be more rebellious and sociable, and they might be more likely to move far away and less likely to strive for perfectionism, according to WebMD.

Entrepreneur sat down with Dr. Brittany McGeehan, a licensed psychologist based in Frisco, Texas who specializes in working with high-achieving women, to learn more about how being the middle child can impact success in business and life.

"They're the peacemakers, typically, so they have absolutely wonderful negotiation skills."

Although McGeehan acknowledges that any generalizations about birth order and success are "painting with a broad brush" and may not ring true for everyone, she says that middle children tend to go down one of two paths.

The first — and more common, according to McGeehan — comes with significant advantages for middle children navigating the business world.

Related: Are Some People Born to Be Entrepreneurs?

"They're the peacemakers, typically," McGeehan says, "so they have absolutely wonderful negotiation skills, and they are usually able to read a room and see what the room needs to calm down. —[from] childhood all the way up [to] sitting in a boardroom or wherever."

Middle children who fall into this category are inclined to "go with the flow" and "show up in the way that they need to in order to maintain balance," McGeehan adds.

Related: 5 Benefits of Teaching Young Children About Entrepreneurship

"There is potential for middle-borns, in general, to end up less successful if they're hell-bent on 'I need to prove myself.'"

But some middle children will try a different tack — one motivated by their desire to stand out, McGeehan says.

"They feel that need to prove themselves," McGeen explains, "[and] you can see this going astray versus really sort of leaning into [their] negotiation and compromise skills. There is potential for middle-borns, in general, to end up less successful if they're hell-bent on 'I need to prove myself' versus building a foundation of skills that are actually sustainably going to be able to help propel them through a career."

Fortunately, with all of the information available on the internet and social media, many parents today are well-informed about the potential challenges of being a middle child and can take steps to mitigate them, McGeehan notes.

Related: 8 Powerful Ways to Mold Children Into Leaders

"Don't forget about your middle children. Because they really do turn into little wallflowers if you let them."

McGeehan's advice? Parents who don't feel like their family is complete should be "really, really honest with themselves" and consider if they have the emotional and financial resources to raise all of their kids "effectively and responsibly."

"I just want to be like, 'Don't forget about your middle children,'" McGeehan says. "Because they really do turn into little wallflowers if you let them."

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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