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The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected and RemarkableAbilities Hardcover – August 4, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Powerful advice … anchored in hard science and illuminated by vivid case examples.” — David M. Buss, author of Evolutionary Psychology

“Entertaining and provocative.” — Frank J. Sulloway, author of Born to Rebel

About the Author

Catherine Salmon, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Redlands. She lives in Beaumont, California.

Katrin Schumann is a journalist, freelance editor, and mother of three. She lives in Dedham, Massachusetts.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hudson Street Press (August 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594630801
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594630804
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.

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)

"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?
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Middle children are often lost between the "practice child," the perfect oldest and the cute baby. This book tells how because the helicopter is hovering over the others, the mid kid has more freedom to be himself.
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