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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2011
As a middle in a large family and having middles of my own, this book explained much. To my surprise, it also illuminated my relationship with my firstborn wife. I had not read any books on birth order before this one, but had heard the various theories over the years. What this book did for me was make me glad I'm a middleborn. I'll take the package of strengths and weaknesses of the middleborn over the first-, last- or only-born any day. I'm equally glad I have some middles of my own for the same reasons. I also don't blame my parents for any of the "negative" consequences of being a middleborn. In the end, my birth order (among other things) created a set of circumstances that helped form who I am...and I like who I am. My birth order doesn't define me, but it helps explain me. I think the explanatory power of birth order would vary greatly among individuals.

My one criticism of any birth order work is that it's too easy to find famous people whose lives fit a particular mold. It reminds me of horoscopes somewhat. We can all pick a particular sign, then go find a famous person who exemplifies most of the traits of that sign. Doing so doesn't prove anything even though many uncritical minds think it does. While I enjoyed reading about how famous middles exemplified a particular middleborn trait, I couldn't help but think that this is a classic case of a "model searching for data" rather than "data searching for a model." The former is a cardinal sin in the scientific world, but it happens all the time, especially in the softer sciences like psychology. Could an equally powerful set of examples be selected that would argue against the author's hypotheses? Still Salmon seems to be aware of the bias inherent in this type of research and is careful not to overstate what the data tells us.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2011
If you are a middle child, have a middle child and/or are married to one like I am, you will definitely want to read this book! The authors shed new (and much needed light) on the amazing qualities middle children posses because of the virtue of their birth order, something I have always enjoyed analyzing being from a large family. As you read this book you'll realize how, more often than not, we subconsciously label people like the "baby" of the family or the "classic" middle children -- putting them in a box due to preconceived notions and stereotypes of how we think they are, or will, ultimately turn out. With my own daughter, who is a middle child, I've often found myself thinking things like "of course she's all about her friends, she gets no air time in this family" or "how do I give this child more attention when she is squeezed between two very dominant brothers?" What I love about this book is how it unveils the many benefits of being in the middle and highlights their many common, but sometimes hidden, impressive qualities and personality traits. It also helps parents recognize, appreciate, and think more positively about how to parent these often creative, independent diplomats and harness their "secret powers." The anecdotes of famous middle borns like the Dali Lama, Bill Gates and Magic Johnson are really interesting too.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2013
I bought the paperback version with ISBN 987-0-452-29793-7. So the cited quotes will match the paper number of that version.

If you're looking for a book that attempts to explain the motivations and reasons behind the common behavioral traits exhibited by middle children, backed by sound research and empirical data...this is NOT that book.

1.
The author makes numerous claims and statements about middle children but fails to provide the research to back them up. True, there is a bibliography at the end, but there aren't any footnotes or references to those items listed. And a full quarter of the bibiography are just websites, one of which is: "[...] (pg 270)

Examples:
"Unhampered by set parental expectations and willing to try new things, middle children are more likely to be innovators than firstborns." (pg 97)
That's a pretty strong statement. Where's the evidence? To back that up, I'd want to see figures/data. Did she pull all the patents awarded within the last 100 years and determine how many were filed by middleborns vs. firstborns? Did she track down all the successful tech companies to be started within the last 20-30 years and see if they were middleborns vs. firstborns? No, she provides no research, footnote, or reference to how she came to this conclusion.

"In a position of relative weakness in terms of family hierarchy, middleborns empathize with those who are less fortunate and, as adults, often direct their passion and energy toward helping underdogs." (pg. 122)
Did she grab census/IRS data to see how many people worked in a non-profit or not-for-profit company to determine if there were more middleborns than firstborns? Did she grab tax returns to see the proportion of income donated to helping underdogs to see if middleborns donated more than firstborns? Did she poll/survey sports fans rooting for teams with lower odds to see if more middeborns than firstborns cheered for them? Or go to vegas to see the betting behaviors of middleborns vs. firstborns? Again, no evidence to support the above, so its just an opinion.

"Because midde children tend to see the big picture, valuing concepts and abstract ideas more highy than other birth orders, they're more likely to know when to keep going and when to call it quits." (pg. 145)
First of all, I don't even buy the premise that middleborns value concepts and abstracts more than others. But in this case, she does go on to point out an example of a middleborn with this quality: Donald Trump. This leads me to the second problem with this book, listed below. She does end the section citing a "Careerbuilder.com survey, middle children report that they are the most satisfied with their current positions than all the birth orders." (pg. 145). But is it too much to ask for details of that survey? What year was it conducted? How many participants? Was it nationwide, one industry, one company, self-reported on the internet, or administered at a workplace? For all we know, the survey was 10 people from one small company in Ohio.

"Middle children are highly social beings. They have better interpersonal skills than firstborns." (pg. 165)
BOOM! That's a huge statement. How did she arrive at that conclusion? Her only evidence is to cite that firstborns bully friends and take advantage of their age and size and that lastborns/only childs are spoiled and stubborn. So what? Because firstborns and lastborns are bullies and spoiled, that must mean middlechildren are the opposite and have great interpersonal skills?

The entire book is full of these, very strong statements about middleborns, but no data/research to support them.

2.
Instead of research, she relies mainly on case studies/anecdotal evidence and tends to pick out truly exceptional people as examples of the traits she claims middle children exhibit. The problem with that is these examples aren't a very good reflection or representation of the middleborn population. She's targeted the most desirable middleborns to draw her conclusions. Science even has an official term for that, its called SAMPLING BIAS.

In chapter 2, the author cites Britney Spears as an example to define middleborns with respect to age gaps affecting true birth order. She concludes (pg 35), "What does this mean for middleborns? When a child is born within a couple of years of their older and younger siblings, this makes them the most middeborn in nature." Essentially she's taken a celebrity, which achieved success since grade school on the Mickey Mouse Club, to draw conclusions for the entire middleborn population on family dynamics while growing up. I would argue that Britney Spears has not had what many of us would consider a typical childhood growing up with siblings.

The author goes on throughout the book citing "evidence" of these traits in middleborns by referencing Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Buffett, etc. That's like pointing out that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg both dropped out of college and became billionaires, so the conclusion should be college dropouts tend to become billionaires. First of all, Gates and Zuckerberg GOT INTO HARVARD in order to drop out of college. For every famous and successful middleborn she cites, I'm sure there are 100s or 1000s of middleborns that haven't amounted to much in life. Her examples, I would argue, were truly exceptional and would have been successful regardless of their birth order.

"We need only look at a random sample of famous middles to see..." (pg. 170)
No, you don't want a sample of "famous" people. You want an extremely large and robust sample size of middles, with hopefully only a small number of "famous" outliers that would skew your data, so that you can draw meaningful conclusions about the mean/average middleborn.

The author makes some very strong statements and conclusions about middleborn children and the traits/behaviors they exhibit, but fails to provide enough evidence to back them up.

And these conclusions she makes about middleborns are very positive: they have great empathy, they're great listeners, they're independent, they're innovative, etc. I assume the 5 star ratings on here are from middleborns themselves who have read this and are now trying to attribute prior events to these conclusions. They want these conclusions to be true, because they're good, positive things.

As a middleborn, I picked up this book to try to determine why I'm so different from my siblings (1 older brother, 1 younger brother, all separated by 3 years...so by the author's own definition a true middleborn where gender and age gap aren't a factor). Why am I the only one who left home for college? Why am I the only one who moved across the country after college? Why am I the least closest to our parents? Etc...

Familial resources are scarce, from money to attention to time. I really do believe the author was on to something and that these middleborn behaviors arise from the different upbringing we experienced compared to our siblings. But she fails to provide any empirical data or even meaningful case studies to justify her conclusions.

Essentially this is just a feel-good, self-help book full of opinions...not any hard science.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2011
Well worth it. Very well written, a lot of research has gone into the publication. As a middle child this book has struck a chord. Foremost it has given me a much greater understanding of my parents. Would highly recommend, not only for middle children but also for parents who may not quite understand why they treat their offspring so differently.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
This is a fantastic book, especially if you are a middle child as I am. It just verifies so much of what I have always known but could not get the older and younger siblings to see!!! They are also just as it says in the book but they would never admit it and may not even see it in themselves. Too bad for them! And they wonder why we are not closer. I wish they would work on themselves and quit trying to make me out as the "one who's got the distorted thinking"! Of course - because I see us all honestly and they want to see themselves as so much better then they truly are. Any decent parent of a middle child should read this and make a point to show a middle child the attention and love they deserve!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2013
I found this book interesting and quite insightful. Several quotable passages jumped out at me as I read through. It seemed to me, however, that the author sometimes built conclusions based on previously held personal beliefs. I realize that all authors work in the context of their own worldview and personal biases, but Dr. Salmon's seemed quite evident at times. Having said that, I did feel that this book was worth reading and it did help with my overall understanding of this subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2013
This is a hugely enlightening book for a middle child! I encourage all parents of middles to pick it up - I think I would have benefitted greatly if my parents had read this book. I have great parents, but I've often felt misunderstood and a little out of place -- this book helped me to realize where some of those feelings originated.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2012
Catherine and Katrin, thank you so much for writing such a great book! This is totally amazing to unveil the mysteries of being a middle born as a disadvantage. As a middleborn myself, when I keep reading it, I kept nodding my head as what it said is so TRUE! Especially the personality traits that you described in the book, such as delay gratification, conflict avoidance, hard to say no, trailblazers, think outside the box, great listeners, empathy, peace lovers, emotionally far apart from parents but close with other siblings, well-balanced by nature, highly socialize, perseverance, take calculated risks, flexibility, being taken advantage of, keep other people happy, and etc. I just can't agree more!

In particular, when you mentioned middles are emotional far apart from parents, this is me! At first, as I was away from home and studied overseas with my sister when I was 12, that's why I couldn't connect closely with my parents (is still the same even though I'm a grownup middle now!). After reading your book, I finally understood why I have such a behaviour and emotionally distance apart from them. Sometimes I feel that though I tried to get closer with them, there's just something in between blocking us subconsciously. On the other hand, I was so close with my siblings, especially my younger sister. Though we don't live in the same city, we always talk and update each other, she is my BFF! Ironically, while I'm living with my parents, we just seldom talk to each other. When we're having dinner together, I just don't talk about my life to them, vice versa. Instead, we talk about the globe news, politics, economics, and etc. Sometimes, my mom does complained to me that I'm so mysterious and they don't know what's going on in my life. But for me, I don't feel strange, guess that maybe I'm used to it. As you mentioned in the book, parents don't have lots of investments and time to middleborns, as parents have higher expectation on the firstborn, while need to pay more attention to the lastborn. This is so TRUE! Having said that, I don't blame my parents to neglect my emotional needs when I was a child, instead I truly thank them to work diligently, so that three of us can receive the best education and able to strive for a better life.

Another middleborn trait that you've amazingly described is conflict avoidance. This is exactly what I'm doing everyday! This is my personality and characters by avoiding conflicts as much as possible. I just don't like to argue or have conflicts with each other, I prefer harmony and peace when surrounding with people. As I have a tendency of keeping people happily, that's why I feel so uncomfortable to have conflicts with others. After reading your book, I undoubtedly inherited this conflict avoidance trait because I'm a middleborn. In certain extent, this is a good trait because I try to minimize any unnecessary conflicts as much as possible. However, I sometimes have troubles to express my concern and fight back my standpoints when conflicts arose. Most of the time, I just keep quiet and don't show up my emotions to other parties, knowing that inside of me was pretty angry and disappointed with the conflicts.

There're so many middleborn traits which I totally agreed, but there's one trait keeps bothering me. When you described that middleborns are the great negotiators, I have some hesitations on your findings. As a middleborn, I'm used to being push around and have a tendency to practice conflict avoidance, I just don't see why middleborns can inherit negotiation skills. I presumed negotiation involves a skill set to help you get what you want from others. In my past middleborn experience, usually I will just give-in if I can't get what I want, mostly is because I want to keep other people happy. That's why I feel more comfortable to "sacrifice" myself instead of others. Therefore, I don't see myself as a great negotiator at all. Having said that, my boss always told me that I'm a great diplomat as I always keep harmony within the team and with other teams. As I maintain a good relationship with other teams, I can easily access the information that I want within short period of time.

While there're lots of great middleborn traits, that's one major setback that middleborns need to pay attention, it's the reluctancy of pursuing their goals. I'm not sure if this is the same for other middleborns, as I'm so used to delay gratification, which I don't mind to wait and persevere in the current unpleasant situation. However, the more and longer I wait, the harder to find my true desire and pursue my goals. At the end, I'm flexible to be anything, but at the same time, I'm not passionate to anything. Even though I find my passion, I'm reluctant to pursue it because I'm comfortable with the status quo. All I need is a big push at the back, step out of the comfort zone and to explore the inner me by myself.

Once again, thank you so much for writing such a good book, Catherine and Katrin! Without your dedication to study birth order, middleborns would never understand how invaluable we are to the world, especially middleborns are becoming endangered species! As we inherit so many unique and priceless people skills, I encourage middleborns to step out and contributing back to the society!

Keep up the good work middles!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2011
I so enjoyed reading "The Secret Power of Middle Children" largely because it is full of great new information on how middles are so well equipped for the challenges that face us all. I have always been interested in birth order and how it shapes our decisions as siblings, parents and friends. I am the baby of two and my husband is the baby of 7 and we do share so many similarities on how we view life, in part, based on our birth order.

I am not a middle, but I do have what is considered to be a middle child (in a family of three boys and a girl). My middle is not the oldest, youngest or the only girl. He is a stand alone in the middle. This book taught me so much about his world. I do notice he often "takes notes" on what everyone else is doing and as a result is able to make clear, well thought out decisions. He is a "thinker" and does seem to be contemplating all the good and bad he sees in order to form his own unique opinion. "The Secret Power of Middle children" gave me a greater understanding around why he is so patient, often tempered in his approach and always very protective.

While this book can get very personal, as one analyzes different relationships they have in life, it also strikes a great balance of pulling back and taking a mile high view of how other people we have heard of are affected by being a middle. From Benjamin Franklin to Ernest Hemingway to Bill Gates they all have wonderful traits that have carried them through to form successful lives. This is a great angle of the book as the authors continue to weave in fascinating stories from well known middles.

The best part of this book is that the authors take a complex topic and create a space where you can look at these middles in a different way than you did before and see how they are "driven to overcome their disadvantages". Rich content, layered with tons of superior research - this book is simply wonderful. I now only wish I was a middle!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2013
the book makes too many sweeping generalizations about middle children, many of which I found to be untrue. (as a middle child myself.) There were way too many famous people used to illustrate her ideas and the evidence was not at all solid but more anecdotal. I thought the book was not scholarly and very disappointing.
It seems the author has a father whose qualities she admires and she sets out to prove how these are the characteristics of middle children. Other experts on birth order seem more inclined to say middle children are hardest to define because there are so many variables at play.
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