<p>Britney Spears and Madonna are both middle children.</p>

Britney Spears and Madonna are both middle children.

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Middle children are unfairly stereotyped as apprehensive underachievers who suffer from parental neglect, but research shows that they’re actually quite ambitious: Many middle children grow up to be the most successful members of their families, and several have gone onto become some of the most accomplished people in history.

“[Middle children] are considered to be neglected, be resentful, have no drive, have a negative outlook, and feel like they don’t belong,” Katrin Schumann, co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children, told Psychology Today — though she believes they’d been quite harshly misjudged. Written in collaboration with psychologist and researcher Dr. Catherine Salmon, Schumman investigated the phenomenon of “middle child syndrome” in her book, concluding that being born in the middle actually comes with unexpected advantages.

While middle children do tend to be neglected by their parents (and researchers), this actually benefits them in the long run. “They become more independent, think outside the box, feel less pressure to conform, and are more empathetic,” she explained. “Middles are not embittered wallflowers — they are social beings and great team players.”

According to Schumann, “fifty-two percent of our presidents have been middles,” as well as Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Madonna. “All are visionary middles with strong leadership qualities,” she pointed out. Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Diana Ross are fellow middle children turned legendary pop-stars.

Thus, middle-born children are clearly more ambitious than we were led to previously believe — maybe even more so than the oldest. “Most people see firsts as having drive and ambition, but middles do too, it’s just directed elsewhere,” she explained, as middles as more interested in concepts like justice over power or prestige.

“Middles are often motivated by social causes,” she said, citing Nelson Mandela and suffragette Susan B. Anthony as examples. “When they do enter into a more traditional business, they are great innovators and team leaders, such as Bill Gates.” Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is a middle child turned tech tycoon, too.

Middles are also known to be “trailblazers,” like Charles Darwin and William Dell. They “are more likely to affect change than any other birth order,” Schumman said, adding that this is due to their willingness to try new things. “One study, for example, showed that 85 percent of middles were open to new ideas, like cold fusion, compared to only 50 percent of firsts.”

Lastly, Schumman provided middle children with some life advice. “You’ll be happiest if you continue to carve your own path through life and take calculated risks,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to rock the boat once in a while.”

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