Everyone loves the oldest child because the parents can rely on them, they watch out for their siblings and they're so confidently attractive. The Youngest Child Wins because they're the "baby". But what does that leave the one in the middle?
That's essentially the definition of Middle Child Syndrome, in which a child automatically may become The Unfavorite or the rebellious Black Sheep, specifically because they are the easiest child to overlook. They're not old enough to be given the responsibilities and privileges of the oldest, and the youngest child took their spot as the spoiled and doted-on "baby" of the family. This tends to be more of an issue when there are three children rather than four or more. Oftentimes in media, the middle child ends up becoming more of the Deadpan Snarker or the quirky one for this reason. That, or they end up the best-adjusted between the overly-responsible elder sibling and overly-privileged younger.
Can be somewhat avoided, but not always, if the middle child is special by being of the opposite gender than their siblings, which can give them a unique dynamic with the rest of the family.
Truth in Television. It's common to blame or demonize the parents, but in most cases, they do not realize the situation, and need it brought up to them. There are also times when the parents do see there is a problem, but do not know how to handle it.
Contrast Only Child Syndrome, which tends to have the opposite effect of too much attention rather than too little.
For the trilogy variant of this trope, it's Sophomore Slump.
- Super Gals: Inverted with Ran; out of her siblings, she seems to have the most interactions with her parents (especially her father). However, this has less to do with her being a middle child, and more because of her rebellious tendencies.
- Downplayed in Ah! My Goddess. Belldandy hardly suffers from being a black sheep or unloved, but she does seem to be somewhat left out, as her nature, elegant and refined, is very different from that of Urd and Skuld, who have much more in common with each other than with her. As a result she's always on the outside of their antics, so much so that she feels jealous.
- Subverted with Kankuro of Naruto. While, overall, not as powerful as his older sister or younger brother, he's still formidable. It's also implied that none of them really got on well with their father, and Kankuro seems pleased with the opportunity to finally act like a big brother to Gaara after Gaara's HeelFace Turn. He and Temari are likewise shown to be close. However he is all-but ignored by a lot of the fanbase.
- Kozue in WORKING!! suffers from this, being the third child of the five Takanashi siblings. This is compounded by the fact that her younger brother Souta is the only son of the family and thus receives a disproportionate amount of attention such that she is often forgotten. As a result, she grew up to be a Hard-Drinking Party Girl who simply wanted more attention.
- Hunter × Hunter:
- Inverted with Killua, the Deuteragonist of Hunter × Hunter. He is the White Sheep, but he's the favorite of his psychotic mother Kikyo, and his father Silva is sure that Killua will become like himself. Killua is also beloved by three of his four brothers. Illumi is an overprotective and extreme older brother, Kalluto joins the Phantom Troupe in the hope of bringing his brother home, and Alluka can't not love Killua, the only one of the family who loves Alluka. Even Milluki admits that Killua has the most potential in the family.
- Considering that the Chimera Ant Royal Guards are siblings, Shaiapouf is the weakest of the three, and a Crazy Jealous Guy. The latter part is the reason why he is so hated by the fandom, because he's the only one who acts against the king: trying to kill Komugi.
- Jagi, the third of the four Hokuto Shinken brothers in Fist of the North Star is the Black Sheep, the weakest brother and is the only one never shown in a sympathetic light in the original manga/anime. Raoh is the strongest, Toki is the most talented, Kenshiro is the true successor and better than all of them. He's often Demoted to Extra in other media and even in the main series is never mentioned again after his death.
- Kana Minami is the dumb and lazy sister among the three, is usually the Butt-Monkey towards her younger sister, but also occasionally to her older sister, too. While Haruka is very popular in her school and and Chiaki is respected by her classmates, Kana is not, though, she's not unpopular either and is even the first one to get a Love Interest, to whom she is oblivious
- Whenever the three brothers of the other Minami family have a discussion (mostly about their younger sister Touma), Akira Minami is often ignored by his two older brothers due to the age gap, despite that most of his statements are actually right. Not only that, he gets the short stick in the Love Dodecahedron between Kana, Fujioka, Riko and himself.
- In Hotarubi no Tomoru Koro ni, Nobuteru is implied to have been The Unfavorite among the three Tadamura brothers (according to himself at least) and he ended up as the most rebellious among them, their birth village's stiffening rules not helping. The eldest broth Masashi, on the other hand, is a serious man who seems to still follow the village's customs faithfully, while the youngest one Tsunemasa is more candid and optimistic - and said by Nobuteru to have been their mother's favorite, although he objects to that.
- In Saint Seiya, the Bronze Saints are our five protagonists who keep winning battle against people much stronger than them, and the Gold Saints are said much stronger people, who are greatly respected, extremely dangerous and are focused on just as much as the Bronzes. But... what about the Silver Saints...? They are pretty much just there to either be the Bronzes' mentors, or the obnoxious one-off enemies. Aside from Marin, Shaina, Misty and Lyra Orphee, nobody cares about the other Silvers.
- Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas is even worse. The only Silver Saint we know is Yuzuriha, nobody else are mentioned or play any important role. It doesn't help that this series focuses a LOT on the Golds (given that they were Ensemble Dark Horse in the classic series), and gives what other spotlight to Tenma and Yato. It's hard not to feel sorry for the Silvers.
- Jason Todd was the second Robin and since coming Back from the Dead certainly seems to live certain aspects of this trope. Specifically, he resents Batman for replacing him with another Robin and because he thinks he was The Unfavorite compared to Dick, the first Robin.
Jason: But boy, Dick, you sure got game Guess that's why 'Dad' always loved you best.
- Lampshaded by Tim, when he refers to Jason as the 'Jan Brady' of the BatFamily:
Tim: And yes, I know that makes me Cindy.
- Lampshaded by Tim, when he refers to Jason as the 'Jan Brady' of the BatFamily:
- Since Jason's being 'disowned' on account of being crazy, Tim has since been put into the middle child role between Dick and Damian Wayne and it only got worse when Bruce died, leaving Dick Grayson as the new Batman and Tim getting replaced by Damian. He's handling it better than Jason, but most of the DCU is of the consensus that Tim needs to get some therapy.
- In some versions of Beauty and the Beast, Belle is la cadette, the second daughter who (at least in one version of the tale) gets picked on by both her sisters, has a Missing Mom, three absent brothers, and spends her time self-sacrificing for her father who apparently prefers her but agrees, upon her insistence, to let her do all the work while her sisters are pampered. Finally, her father abandons her in a creepy mansion in the woods because she told him to.
- In One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes, a witch had three daughters, each of which had one more eye than the one before. The middle daughter is therefore the one with two eyes and gets abused. Of course, that means she gets to marry the king in the end.
However, as Two-eyes saw just as other human beings did, her sisters and her mother could not endure her. They said to her, "Thou, with thy two eyes, art no better than the common people; thou dost not belong to us!"
- One The Powerpuff Girls Fanfic offered an alternate interpretation. Rather than making Blossom the Eldest, she was the Middle Child, and her acting more mature and claiming of the leader role was her attempt to compensate for her fear of being overlooked. Buttercup was the Youngest, and her extreme attitude was her way of rebelling against any notion of labeling her the 'baby', and Bubbles was the Eldest and simply didn't care about whatever role she 'should' fill, given that all the girls were extremely young anyway and her sisters were more willing to fill those stereotypes.
- This is Trixie's Freudian Excuse in the Pony POV Series. She gets a double dose of this because not only is she the middle sibling, they all look so alike that people asked her if her and her sisters where clones.
- In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, Grouchy was the middle child of his family that consisted of his older twin brothers Hefty and Handy and his younger sister Sassette, and doesn't like that his Papa Smurf cared more about them than he did about him.
- In Fantasy Database, we have the protagonist Icarus, who is often overlooked by Annoying Younger Sibling Phaeton and Aloof Big Brother Sisyphus.
- In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, wizard Ponder Stibbons and Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes have three daughters. Bekki the eldest is a good-natured trainee Witch. Ruth the youngest is a shy, serious, creatively minded intellectual. In between there is Famke. Student Assassin. One of the vanishingly small number of people who would dare go up against her mother in a stand-off shouting row. The youngest person ever sent on the Vimes Run by Miss Band. Not delinquent or misbehaving as such - just strong-minded and something of a Tyke-Bomb.
- Son of the Sannin plays a bit more this aspect on Kankuro than in canon. At the beginning of the Shippuuden timeframe, he confides to Naruto that he was the least notable among his siblings, which led him to become a puppeteer ninja to stand out on his own.
- Lynn. Sr thought he subverted this in Syngenesophobia. He had thought he was close to his middle child and only son due to being the only men in the house, only to be upset when he realizes he actually plays it quite straight as he and Lincoln have virtually nothing in common compared to his daughters who he shares interests with.
- It's actually Rita, Lincoln's mother that subverts this. While she pays the closest amount of attention to Lily (because she is a baby) and her two eldest Lori and Leni (because they nearly adults and she needs to help them prepare for that). She specifically says she holds Lincoln close to her heart. Referring to having a son as a nice change from so many daughters, along with the implication that the whole reason she had so many kids after him was because she was trying to give him a little brother.
- The second oneshot in the Pokémon fic The Sensational Saga focuses on Misty's older sister Lilly. Lilly is the middle child of four daughters and always felt like The Unfavorite in her mother's eyes. There's nothing that makes her stand out amongst her sisters.
- The TMNT film series saw fit to bring this part of "cool but rude" Raphael into the mainstream. Putting up with "Splinter, Jr." is his least favorite part of being a turtle. And he doesn't even have a utility like being smart, unlike the other middle child, Donny.
- The eponymous Eve from Eve's Bayou felt like The Unfavorite compared to her older sister and younger brother. This is probably why she developed such a close bond with her aunt Mozelle.
- Dawn Wiener in Welcome to the Dollhouse. Shunned by her peers and ignored by her family, Dawn pretty much has to fend for herself.
- In The Darwin Awards movie, the protagonist cites this as being a possible motivating factor for many peoples' Darwin Award moments... including himself.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera. This is a possible contributing factor in Pavi Largo's descent into psychotic narcissism. His elder brother Luigi almost certainly got more attention than him on account of being an angry, murderous psychopath since birth, and his younger sister Amber is the biggest Attention Whore imaginable. The Extended Universe info suggests that Pavi, by contrast, was relatively unremarkable while growing up (aside from having a severe speech impediment, which he eventually learned to cover up by adopting a ridiculous Italian accent) and it was only later that he turned into a deranged, womanizing rapist who enjoys cutting women's faces off and grafting them onto his own (horribly scarred) face.
- Antz begins with Woody Allen's ant character in a session with his ant therapist, and one of his many issues is "When you're the middle child in a family of five million, you don't get any attention. I mean, how is that possible?"
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: This is one of Edmund's many issues in the first half of the film. Peter and Susan are the grown-up "older ones" who are given all the responsibility and Lucy is the adored baby of the family who everyone looks after. Edmund is just the awkward, rebellious sibling — too old to be coddled but too young to keep up with his older brother and sister. This resentment is what eventually leads to him betraying his siblings, although Jadis and her evil magic were involved, and he makes up for it in the end.
- Crazy: Zac, the protagonist, suffers from this. His 3 older brothers distinguish themselves one way or the other (the eldest is a straight-A student, the second son is quite a ladies man, the third is a great athlete), and the youngest brother is The Baby of the Bunch. Plus, his conservative father doesn't accept his homosexuality.
- Edith in the Despicable Me films got hit with this, particularly in the second film, where she gets the least development of her sisters (fighting the mutated Kevin) at the climax is interrupted by Dr. Nefario using the PX-41 antidote on Kevin at the very last second. She even gets ignored by the marketing team, as the theatrical trailers for the three films don't show any of her speaking parts, instead focusing on Margo and Agnes in the first two, and Agnes in the third.
- Sing Street's protagonist is the youngest son Conor. The eldest Brendan functions as a mentor to him. The middle child - their sister Anne - gets barely any lines and is ignored by the narrative. She disappears halfway through the film and doesn't even appear in Conor's Imagine Spots.
- Present in High And Tight where the middle child is the protagonist. Scott Olsen is sandwiched between oldest brother Shane - who is a parental substitute and bread winner - and youngest brother Seth - who is implied to be a Child Prodigy. Scott is shown to be The Heart of the family however.
- The Baby-Sitters Club:
- Tiffany Kilbourne.
- Kristy has a bit of this as well: too young to hang out with Sam and Charlie, too old to play with David Michael, Karen, and Andrew.
- Older Than Radio: What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge, 1872. Katy and Clover, the oldest children in the family, are inseparable, as are the three youngest, Dorry, Johnnie and Phil. The one in the middle, Elsie, is too old to play with the younger kids and too young to hang out with the older ones and is accordingly lonely and miserable.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Stannis Baratheon, the middle child of the Baratheon brothers and the only unpopular, humorless Knight Templar of the bunch — both his older brother Robert and his younger brother Renly are instead charming Boisterous Bruisers. Renly was happy looking up to Robert, but Stannis wanted to move out of his shadow.
- Lysa Arryn is implied to contend with this, being in the middle between Catelyn and Edmure. Jaime Lannister, when he was younger, found Catelyn more interesting than Lysa, whom he might have been betrothed to.
- Not so apparent with Arya because she's a Daddy's Girl but she's still the third child of Ned and Catelyn Stark's five children and the fourth child of Ned's six children (Arya has an older half-brother, Jon Snow, who is Ned's illegitimate son and raised alongside his siblings) so it's still somewhat there. Two of her older siblings, Robb and Sansa, both easily fit into the responsibilities and expectations assigned to them; her older brothers Robb and Jon are raised side by side, mentored together by Ned and are best friends, while her younger brothers Bran and Rickon are doted upon because they are the babies of the family. It doesn't help that she's a misfit herself as her tomboyish nature clashes with societal expectations while Sansa exemplifies societal expectations as a lady to near perfection. She's also the only one out of Catelyn's children who doesn't look like a Tully but looks all Stark — which is part of why she's so close with her half-brother Jon, also somewhat of an outsider like her, because she and Jon are the only two of Ned's kids to inherit the Stark look. This trope (and her being nine years old) is suggested to be why she acts out so much, especially in the first book.
- Viserys is the second(surviving) child of Aerys Targaryen. When compared to his older brother Rhaegar and younger sister Daenerys, Viserys is unremarkable and pretty much a weakling. Whilst Rhaegar and Dany inherit much of the positive traits of the Targaeryen bloodline, Viserys has nothing but his fathers madness.
- Jaime is a subversion. He's the middle Lannister child but also Tywin's favorite for whatever that's worth. Tywin discounts the eldest child, Cersei, because she's a girl, and considers the youngest, Tyrion, a walking disappointment because he's a hedonistic dwarf. However, Jaime is the "middle Child" only the strictest possible definition, he's barely a minute younger than Cersei.
- In Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle (but not the movie), Lettie is actually the prettiest and most ambitious of the three Hatter sisters, but Martha is the youngest child, so she gets sent off to train as a witch and Sophie, the protagonist, is the oldest, so she's groomed to take over the family business. Lettie is expected to work as an apprenticeship at a pastry shop, where she'll meet some nice man and have lots of children. Also, Martha is Sophie and Lettie's half-sister from their father's second marriage, which "ought to have made Sophie and Lettie into Ugly Sisters", but didn't. As one might expect from a Diana Wynne Jones book, there is a plot twist whereby Lettie and Martha reject their expected roles and switch places and appearances.
- Fredo Corleone of The Godfather has this in spades. Sonny has the brawn, Michael has the brains, and Tom Hagen plays the traditional middle child role of mediating between them. While introducing Kay to his family during the novel's opening sections, Michael acknowledges that Fredo serves almost no purpose in the Corleone family.
- In the book he's described as being the quintessential Italian Momma's Boy, and he was essentially useless to the family business.
- In the Mark Winegartener sequel novels, it is implied that a severe case of pneumonia when Fredo was an infant was partially responsible for his behavior issues and/or mild retardation. In addition, he was also a heavily closeted homosexual, which is something of a no-no in Old World Italian values, and compensated by cultivating a reputation as a swinging ladies' man, which also went against his family's conservative upbringing. Following on from this, his "betrayal" in Part II came about because he wanted to start a racket of his own (described in the novels as owning his own cemetery in New Jersey, giving him a piece of all the stonemasonry, flowers, landscaping, etc., that came through, not to mention the obvious benefits of a mobster owning a place to legally hide dead bodies) in order to prove his independence and show that he could be successful and not reliant on his younger brother's largesse. It's also shown that Michael considers Fredo to be the unfavorite of his brothers; Nick Geraci, a Corleone capo and primary antagonist in the novels, thinks to himself that Fredo's idea has plenty of merit, but that Michael wouldn't give it any consideration just because it was Fredo's.
- Others outside the immediate Corleone family, though, consider Fredo to be the most likable. While Sonny had a hair-trigger temper and one always had to be on guard with Tom and Michael for subtle nuances and double meanings, Fredo had the distinction of being both friendly and harmless, the most easily approachable of the Corleones for a drink and casual conversation.
- Inverted in Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, where middle child Kate is given the most attention due to her cancer, leaving her older brother Jesse to become a delinquent and her younger sister Anna in question of herself.
- Forbidden: Kit, of the Whitely children. They're aged 17, 16, 13, 8, 5. His eldest two siblings have been Promoted to Parents, while the little two are just children. As a result of his middle child syndrome by acting out. As his sister said:
Personally, I have always suspected it is something far simpler: Kit doesnt like the little ones getting all the attention for being small and cute, and Lochan and me telling everyone what to do, while hes stuck in no-mans-land, the archetypal middle child with no partner in crime.
- Samantha in All-American Girl. The younger sister of a beautiful, popular cheerleader and the older sister of a child prodigy genius, she has become the Black Sheep of the family, an artistic loner. Then she becomes the person to get the most attention when she saves the president from an assassination attempt (long story).
- Jane Austen:
- Inverted in Sense and Sensibility, where the middle child Marianne is her mother's favorite.
- Played straight elsewhere in the Austenverse; in Pride and Prejudice, there are five sisters. Everyone loves Jane, the eldest, who has the sweetest disposition and prettiest face. Elizabeth, second-eldest, is her father's favorite; Lydia, the youngest, is her mother's. Mary and Kitty, the third and fourth daughters respectively, enjoy no favoritism at all.
- In a meta sense, the middle Bingley child Louisa is the one who's frequently left out of adaptations. Eldest Charles is Jane's love interest, while youngest Caroline is a more memorable bitch.
- Invoked in the Deconstructor Fleet fantasy novel Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming, when Azazel decides that the middle son will be the most useful for his purposes because the middle son is the most neglected: The oldest son is the heir, and the youngest son goes on an adventure and thus becomes successful, but the middle son enjoys neither kind of success.
- The Real Kids Readers book Molly in the Middle deals with Molly, her older sister Tina and younger sister Lucy. Molly's failed attempts to become the oldest, youngest, funniest, loudest, meanest, etc. take up most of the book until she realizes she is the "luckiest" because she doesn't get the disadvantages that come with being the oldest/youngest.
- Harry Potter:
- Percy Weasley is the third brother in the Weasley clan. He's sort of the Butt-Monkey in earlier books before he turns into a full Jerk Ass, especially where Fred and George are involved. Everybody admires Bill and Charlie, everybody finds Fred and George fun to be around, Ginny is respected for her ability as a witch (plus she's both the youngest and the only girl of the family) and Ron does get some respect as Harry's best friend and for his later heroics. Percy, on the other hand, doesn't get much attention. Even his boss, Barty Crouch, Sr., calls him by the wrong name to his face! Percy is actually set up to be the favourite in book one but only because he was a prefect. He appears to be Molly's favourite, however the rest of his family don't seem to prefer him.
- Fred and George allude to this trope in the fifth book, where Molly coos over "everyone in the family" becoming prefects after Ron gets made one. The twins reminds Molly that she ignored them when she said this.
- Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid is this trope. How many times do you see Rodrick or Manny (usually Manny) getting the advantage over Greg? Because Rodrick is about 4 years older than Greg (and constantly getting in trouble) and Manny is a baby, they constantly get more attention. Debatably, this is one of the main premises of entire the series, especially the second and third books and movies.
- Half Magic is about four siblings in the 1920s (from oldest to youngest, Jane, Mark, Katharine and Martha) finding a magic nickel that grants wishes by half (like if you wished for an ice-cream sundae, you'd get half an ice-cream sundae, etc.) Since Jane's the oldest, she calls the shots on everything. After Jane, Mark and Martha have already made wishes, gotten themselves into trouble, and figured out how to use the magic charm correctly, Jane pulls an I-get-to-have-the-first-wish after they get back home, and this is what happens:
Katharine: I don't see why. You always get dibs on first 'cause you're the oldest, and grown-ups always pick Martha, 'cause she's the baby, and Mark has a wonderful double life with all this and being a boy, too! Middle ones never get any privileges at all! Besides, who hasn't had a wish of her own yet? Think back! (Previously, Jane had set a playhouse on fire, Martha had made their cat talk in half-understandable gibberish, and Mark had taken them to a desert.)
- Abby from The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes has this. Her older twin sisters Eva and Isabel constantly fight and excel in their chosen fields (sport and study, respectively), while her younger brother Alex excels in technological fields, meaning that Abby only gets attention if she goes out of her way to do so — something she doesn't like doing. Not to mention, nobody actually takes any notice of Abby's skill with creative writing.
- It also turns up in the second book- Eva and Isabel get to go to the school fair by themselves, while Abby has to take Alex with her. Finally, she gets fed up enough to demand that rather than being used as the automatic solution for anything concerning Alex, she gets to ride to the fair with her friends instead. Everyone is very surprised at her demand.
- She also complains about it while writing about her wish for new rollerblades- Eva and Isabel, as the oldest siblings, get brand new rollerblades, and Alex, as the youngest, also gets new ones as the old ones won't fit. Abby, as the middle child, has to deal with the really shit castoffs.
- In "Confessions of a Closet Catholic," Justine, known as 'Jussy,' notes that her mother loves her older sister Helena best, her father loves her younger brother Jake best because he is a boy and her mother even loves the French poodle, Bijou, more than her. It is subverted in the end though when her mother tells her that she may understand Helena better because they are alike but she doesn't love her more.
- In "Oh boy !", Siméon (14 years) is the gifted student, Venise (5 years) is very beautiful, and Morgane (9 years) is "only" a clever girl. People who talk about the fate of the children (they're orphans by the beginning of the book) often forget she exists.
- In A Mango Shaped Space, a psychiatrist chalks Mia's claims of hearing colors (a real disorder) up to this.
- Subverted in The Outsiders where Sodapop is well-liked by his brothers and within their little group. However, this status causes him stress because he is the only mediator between his younger brother Ponyboy and his older brother Darry, who tend to have opposite personality traits and end up in arguments while Sodapop is laid-back and even-tempered.
- The Sisters Club played this perfectly straight with the middle sister, Stevie. Her older sister is the actress, and her younger sister is, of course, the cute one.
- In Kushiel's Dart, Joscelin admits that this is the case of noble families who end up pledging a son to the Cassilines (think a cross of priests and bodyguards). The eldest stay because they are the heir to the domain. The youngest stay to comfort their mothers. It's then a middle son who ends up being pledged to the order.
- Isabelle from The Mortal Instruments, is always raring to go into fights, not to mention she consistently dates boys her parents would hate. Jace says she does it to get attention, as she is not only the only girl but also the middle child.
- Subverted in Middle School Blues. Main character Cindy's new friend Margo complains that the middle is absolutely the worst place to be born, while Cindy herself is a youngest child and hates the fact that no matter what she does, one of her sisters has done it first. Another friend Helen complains that as the oldest, she's expected to be perfect and set an example for her youngest sibling, and Cindy's best friend Becca is an only child, meaning that her parents never leave her alone. The four come to the conclusion that being a teenager sucks no matter where you were born.
- Stamped all over the royal family's sons in The Farseer trilogy. Eldest prince Chivalry was raised to rule, while youngest prince Regal is a Royal Brat whose mother (the king's second wife) considers him the "true" heir because her family was higher-ranking than the first queen's and so he's "more royal" than his brothers. Chivalry's untimely death in a hunting accident sets the events of the trilogy in motion, and puts middle son Verity on the spot - nobody has expected anything of him except maybe to watch the borders for his older brother, and after being neglected so long he was fine with that.
- Aya in Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note is stuck between Yuki, her honour-student elder brother, and Nako, her Ditzy Genius little sister, and thus sees herself as plain. As she says it in episode 3 of the Animated Adaptation:
Smart, athletic and good-looking, my brother is my mom's pride and joy. And my cute, innocent sister, Nako... She's my mom's favourite. But I have friends, too, now, I guess.
- Played completely straight in If There Be Thorns. Cathy clearly favours handsome ballet star Jory and cute toddler Cindy (both are also blonde) over middle child Bart.
- Rosemary Wells's character Nora who who debuted in the book "Noisy Nora" is usually trying to get her parents attention. Since they are mostly taking care of their new baby brother. She would usually get her parents attention by making tons of noise such as slamming the door, or knocking the lamp down. This is also shown in the Animated Adaptation of Timothy Goes to School since Nora is one of the main characters. But not as much of the original book.
- Petrova of Ballet Shoes is the Shrinking Violet of the bunch. Eldest Pauline is the pretty one and gets enough charisma to become an actress. Youngest Posy has enough dance talent to be trained exclusively by an accomplished ballerina. Petrova is the plain one who gets hardly any encouragement. Although in a twist, in the 2007 film adaptation, Petrova gets the most scenes with Garnie and is the one who is told about the family's situation - implying she might be Garnie's preferred daughter. She never gets reprimanded like the other two.
- In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, this was initially one of Edmund's many issues. Peter and Susan were "the older ones" and Lucy was babied as the youngest, while Edmund feels like he just gets in the way.
- Tailchaser's Song: Grizraz Hearteater is the middle child between Viror Whitewind and Tangaloor Firefoot. He wasn't as agile as his older brother or as smart as his younger brother, so he became bitter and envious. His jealousy caused him to try and hkill his siblings. After being banished underground for killing Whitewind and attempting to kill Firefoot, Hearteater's rage and jealousy grew over time until he became an Animalistic Abomination. Centuries later he burns in the sunlight and is bent on destroying the sun.
- See You At Harrys has Fern, who is often glossed over by her parents in favor of issues regarding her older siblings, Sara and Holden, and her younger brother, Charlie. However, she's only this for the first half of the book; after Charlie's passing she becomes the youngest again.
- Game of Thrones: Stannis Baratheon resents the fact that people in general have a much more favourable view of his older and younger brother. Robert gets most of the credit for winning the rebellion against the Mad King, while Stannis' contribution is hardly acknowledged. When the War of Five Kings begins, all of the Stormlands bannermen side with Renly even though Stannis is the lawful successor to the Iron Throne.
- Tommy on Brothers and Sisters. Extra angst in that while he is the oldest Walker son, he is the middle of five (legitimate) children. His father William seemed to open hold his older sister Sarah's business skills in higher regard, bringing her in to run the family fruit company even though Tommy had worked there for years. He also showed varying degrees of resentment towards his other siblings, especially his troubled youngest brother Justin who he feels his parents coddled.
- Stephanie in Full House even had an episode dedicated to her fear that she'd never be as good or loved as her sisters. She has a Imagine Spot where both DJ and Michelle upstage her at everything. (She became an astronaut, went to Mars, and learned to fly. She gets upstaged when DJ went to get the mail and Michelle blinked.) She basically becomes the snarky one in later years to deal with it, like Darlene below.
- Gary Ewing on Dallas was this in spades. Oldest J.R. is the most like their father and inherited Ewing Oil, Bobby is the most beloved by the family and inherited family ranch Southfork. Gary, who was considered weak by his father, is routinely ignored and when his alcoholism gets bad enough in the backstory, is effectively cast out of the family. His parents later make amends but he still never plays any role in the family dynasty.
- When Jock Ewing died, and the sons met up for the will-reading, J.R. and Bobby each effectively got 50% of the estate while Gary and Jock's illegitimate son Ray just got a lump sum of some money (admittedly millions), but Gary wasn't even allowed access to it unless he could prove he wouldn't squander it.
- The Brady Bunch: Jan Brady is probably the Trope Codifier. Peter also has moments where he suffers a little ("Cyrano de Brady", for one). It's revealed that Alice suffered from this as well when she was growing up, allowing her to sympathize with Jan.
- Malcolm in the Middle: The eponymous Malcolm had this trope in spades.
- Except that Lois mistreats all her children, Malcolm just got it the worst because she actually cares about his future, due to his high IQ.
- Also played with, as of Jamie's birth, Reese and Dewey are middle children too, even though only Malcolm gets this treatment.
- President Bartlet's middle daughter Ellie clearly suffers something like this in The West Wing; she and her father have a difficult relationship, but when pressed Bartlet will angrily deny that he loves one of his children less than the others.
- Interestingly, he also says that "she's always belonged to Abbey," implying that from his point of view, he's The Unfavorite parent. (They end up having a nice moment at the end of the episode, of course.)
- Yeah, it seems to depend sort of who you're looking at. Zoey is Jed's favorite, but Ellie is Abbey's. Oldest daughter Liz, married to a guy the family can't stand and a bit of a Stepford Smiler, may in fact be the most neglected by the family.
- If you take the True Companions of The West Wing to the full nuclear family extent, with President Bartlet and Leo as the parents, Josh is this trope Toby is the oldest, the best adviser, the only one who's close to being Leo's equal. CJ is the only daughter, whom everyone depends on. Sam is the kind little brother who's always helpful. Charlie is the baby whom every one protects and adores. Set between CJ and Sam, Josh is very much the rambunctious troublemaker who is always being made fun of and scolded. Slightly subverted, however, by the fact that he's actually Leo's favorite.
- Interestingly, he also says that "she's always belonged to Abbey," implying that from his point of view, he's The Unfavorite parent. (They end up having a nice moment at the end of the episode, of course.)
- Cory suffers from this every now and then in Boy Meets World. More so early on, before Eric is cemented as the family screw-up and Morgan stops having any story or relevance whatsoever (at one point disappearing entirely for a season or two before showing up again being played by a new, preteen actress).
- In the beginning of Charmed, Piper suffers from this because Prue was hard working career woman and Phoebe was adventurous. She felt like the peacekeeper and the most normal one. After Prue died, Piper became the oldest and Phoebe became the middle. But, Phoebe still acted like the youngest and Paige acted like the middle child. Averted when their mother visits Piper on her wedding day and says "I always knew you'd be the first to get married. You're the heart of this family, Piper."
- Darlene from Roseanne was overshadowed by both of her siblings: beautiful and smart Becky, and DJ who was both the baby and the only boy. This largely led to her gothy and cynical demeanor. What subverts this trope, however, is that of the three Connor children, she was the most popular with viewers and had ample screentime as a result.
Roseanne:He'd better start bitching and moaning like his sisters if he's gonna make it in this family.
- However, this became averted in later seasons. When both Becky and Darlene were in those "Awkward Teenage Years" that sitcoms are so fond of, D.J. was the one who went out of focus, since he was the quiet Good Child and the parents were working so hard they could only afford to give the squeaky wheels the grease. At the end of one episode, he told his parents to their surprise that he hadn't spoken a single word in two days, and no one noticed. Sadly, we only caught a glimpse of DJ entering puberty, since the series ended when he was 14.
- Sue in The Middle. And not just because she has a rather generic name while her siblings are named "Axel" and "Brick", but because, as she puts it in an episode, she's not a successful athlete like Axl nor "supersmart" like Brick. Both of her brothers tend to stand out for sports or intellectual abilities respectively.
- She calls Frankie out on this when she tries to get Sue to stop running for her cross country met so she could go to Axel's football game, though this argument is completely ineffective because absolutely everyone else had finished the run and went home hours ago and she was lost. Frankie then admits that she does care more for being there for Axels moments than Sues, but because she knows Sue will always show her love while Axel is a lazy teenager with an attitude who wants as little to do with his parents as possible and she just wants to be there for when he's most likely to let her be his mother again.
- Kerry in 8 Simple Rules. She feels left out because a)her older sister is popular at school and has more responsibilities that their parents would like her to focus on more, and b)her only younger sibling is also the only son for their parents (their father in particular bonded with him more). Kerry isn't an entirely straight example of the trope however. Most of the season 1 episodes involve her father desperately trying to bond with her - while she Wangsts about being the Middle Child.
- Hope & Faith
- Hayley is the middle child in between Sydney and Justin. In one episode she counts the amount of photos each child has in the family albums - and she has twenty less than the oldest and youngest siblings. When she brings this up to her parents, they try to make it up to her in a very heartwarming scene where they take lots of pictures of her at once, showing that they do love her very much.
- With the revelation in Season 3 that they have a brother, Hope and Faith themselves invert the trope. Faith is the middle child now but is the central character of the show.
- Reba presents for this trope Kyra, who's stuck between her older, more popular sister (who has a child of her own, most likely warranting more attention from their parents) and her only younger sibling — the adorable one and only son. Needless to say, she's not happy about this.
- The last season more or less averts this, though, as Jake, the youngest child, falls out of focus and rarely appears while Kyra is still makes a few more appearances before disappearing as well.
- Addressed in one episode of Life with Derek.
- Kay Bennett on Passions is one. In the shows early years she was always given the shaft by her parents in favor of her newly-discovered cousin Charity Standish and her younger sister Jessica (Noah, the oldest, was away in college.) At one point, her mom uses money Kay saved up for a car and gives it to Charity. She eventually moves out of the house and lives with resident witch Tabitha (who hates the Bennett/Standish family.)
- Lucy of 7th Heaven says that it's because she's the middle child that she's always left out.
- Edith Crawley on Downton Abbey, has a pronounced case of this. With Mary being the glamorous daughter that everyone adores and Sybil being the kind-hearted baby of the family, Edith is left as the odd one out. In Season 2, she manages to break out of it somewhat when she becomes the favourite among the soldiers staying in the estate.
- Randy Taylor on Home Improvement was the middle child which led to his deadpan humor.
- His father Tim Taylor was also a middle child (though not the only one in the Taylor family) which may partially explain his constant attempts to impress others with MORE POWER. Because of this, one episode featured Tim and Randy having a talk where Tim acknowledges their similar personalities and reactions to things (such as the death of a loved one in that episode), as opposed to Tim and Brad's having similar interests.
- Leonard from The Big Bang Theory. While his mother refuses to recognize she's proud of the accomplishments of ANY of her children (after all they're not her accomplishments) Leonard gets it the worst. His older sister is close to curing diabetes, his brother is a successful lawyer that's engaged to an Olympian, while everyone harps on poor Leonard for "only" being a theoretical physicist and not doing "original research" but instead designing experiments for and validating the results of the work of others. He makes a point of not talking about his siblings much.
- Also discussed in an episode. Sheldon had hired an actor to pose as his drug addict cousin to whose intervention he and Leonard had supposedly attended, in order to have an excuse so as not to go to Penny's concert. When discussing "the cousin's" backstory, Sheldon wants him to blame his addiction on being the middle child and not having gotten enough attention. The actor (also a scientist), however, doesn't think this is a valid reason because of the lack of research.
- Justified in that it explains why Alex from Wizards of Waverly Place does what she does (she's not only the middle child but a daughter), and inverted/lampshaded in the episode where Aunt Megan is introduced. (Jerry/Megan/Kelbo = Justin/Alex/Max.)
- Doctor Who downplays this with Martha (one of the few companions who didn't suffer from Only Child Syndrome). While she's not The Unfavorite in the family, she seems to have been stuck as the go-between for everyone else's issues; her first scene has her being bombarded with calls while on the way to work.
- She also, oddly enough, seems to have become stuck with a meta-version of this, as the middle companion of the Russel T. Davies era. Both fans and official media often seem to ignore her in favour of Rose and Donna, with only the occasional mention of her being the show's "first black companion" (which ignores Mickey). She has her fans of course, but they're not nearly as outspoken.
- Some of this is probably due to Martha being more of an original series type companion. She travels with The Doctor for a time and moves on when the time comes. Most of the other female companions of the new series have had some sort of special destiny in some way (Bad Wolf, Doctor Donna, The Girl Who Waited, The Impossible Girl, The First Cyberman).
- Andre from Empire gets this despite being the eldest, because he comes from a family of musicians: dad Lucious is a rap legend, mom Cookie is a producer, middle brother Jamal is an R&B singer, youngest brother Hakeem is another rapper, and Andre...is an accountant. Granted, he's the CFO of his family's record company, but he's often overlooked in favor of his more musically-inclined brothers. Even the Jacob and Esau nature of his parents' relationship with his brothers lends itself to this trope; Lucious is grooming Hakeem to be his successor while at odds with Jamal for being gay, while Cookie is Jamal's manager and supports his endeavors but has a rocky relationship with Hakeem, who resents her for being in prison when he was growing up. Andre, meanwhile, despite his professional accomplishments, is just "meh" in both his parents' eyes, which is quite literally driving him insane.
- The White Queen: Although George of Clarence is Duchess Cecily's favourite among her children, he nonetheless believes that his brothers never appreciated or loved him enough. Based on the following line of dialogue, Edward IV (the eldest) and Richard of Gloucester (the youngest) have always been closer to each other than they ever were with him.
George: I stand there like a beggar with a bowl, and my brothers put their crumbs in it. It's always been those two, since we were children. Me out on my own, or with my mother.
- The Brothers Garcia: Carlos the eldest is The Charmer and ladies' man, the twins Lorena and Larry are the youngest and have status as the babies of the family (plus Lorena is the only girl). George is the middle son, in Carlos's shadow and usually follows him around. A couple of episodes show him trying to outdo Carlos.
- The Kids Are Alright (2018): Timmy Doyle is this.
- "What A Crazy World (We're Livin' In)" by skiffle singer Joe Brown plays this trope to the hilt.
- In For Better or for Worse, Elizabeth feared this after April was born. Ironically, however, it was April who ultimately suffered the most from this, becoming neglected and overlooked because her parents felt ready to 'retire' from being parents — and resented any reminder that they had a daughter who was still dependent on them.
- There actually is one special in which Elizabeth gets this in spades, from being brushed off to being blamed for April (who was still a toddler at the time) breaking Elly's favorite ornament. When Elizabeth goes sledding and gets lost; a woman named Grace actually inverts this trope by telling her that sometimes, the middle child gets the best because they don't bear the responsibility and and aren't always treated as a baby.
- The two older Patterson kids were based directly on Lynn Johnston's actual children. April is an entirely fictional character.
- Hammie in Baby Blues. See here and here.
- In the Mystara setting's Karameikos, the royal family is an example. King Stephan favors his tomboyish daughter as heir to the throne, while his wife dotes on her youngest son and wants him to inherit. Their middle child — the eldest son, hence the one most players would expect to be heir — isn't favored by either parent, and indeed is more interested in business than government.
- Meta-example of a forgotten middle child: Every Ravenloft fan in the world remembers Strahd von Zarovich and his youngest brother Sergei, as their Cain and Abel story is responsible for the setting's very existence. Mention their other brother Sturm, progenitor of the modern Von Zarovich bloodline, and most gamers assume you're talking about Dragonlance.
- Prince Geoffrey in The Lion in Winter. His father prefers younger brother John to inherit the throne; his mother prefers elder brother Richard. Somewhat understandably, he develops Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
Geoffrey: No one ever thinks of crown and mentions Geoff, why is that?
King Henry II: Isn't being chancellor power enough?
Geoffrey: It's not the power I feel deprived of; it's the mention I miss. There's no affection for me here; you wouldn't think I'd want that, would you.
- King Lear has three daughters. Goneril has some status as the oldest, while Cordelia is the youngest and is Lear's favourite. Middle sister Regan is constantly trying to outdo Goneril and get some status for herself.
- In Dragon Age II, main character Hawke has two younger siblings: twins Carver (a warrior) and Bethany (a mage). Carver is technically the older twin and suffers this trope hard. If Hawke is a mage, then their parents (including a mage father) focused more attention on the two magical siblings by necessity, leaving Carver feeling left out at times. If Hawke is a warrior/rogue, then it's heavily implied that Carver was never as good a fighter, and Bethany was Daddy's Girl due to their shared magical sense. Either way, Carver has a massive chip on his shoulder and his approval meter appropriately starts off on the "Rival" side.
- Donald in Magical Diary has this as his major issue. Depending on how the game goes he may decide he's sick of being a screw-up and seek a new identity of his own.
- Gorman evokes this trope during his drunken Motive Rant for leaving his brother's ranch for show business in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
Gorman: Anyway, I'm just the despised second son! I can't handle horses like my older brother! I can't take care of horses like my younger brother! I left the ranch, came to know the world of show business, traveled around, but for what? For nothing!!!
- In Fire Emblem Fates, Takumi has severe self-esteem issues due to feeling overshadowed by his perfect older siblings and being unable to ask for affection like his younger sister. In the Birthright and Revelation routes, he gets better. In the Conquest route, he gets far, far worse, and then he gets dead.
- In Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, Catria hypothesizes that this may be part of the reason she seems so closed off from others in one of her base conversations. She tells Celica that both of her sisters always speak up first and therefore get more attention than she does, and then wonders if this is common for middle siblings.
- Summer of Moon Over June grew up with three older brothers and three younger brothers. Scientific evidence holds that she probably would have grown up to be a lesbian anyway, but her family situation pushed her into an utter loathing of everything remotely male.
- Venus Envy has a variation mentioned in the scene where Zoe's brother is forced to talk to her psychiatrist. The psychiatrist theorises that Alex's coming out as Transgender and becoming Zoe has made her brother feel like he now has a younger sibling instead of an older one, as Zoe now needs more parental care and attention, and her brother can no longer look up to her as an older brother and mentor. The brother vehemently denies this, as "I never looked up to that freak".
- In MYth: A Promise, Poseidon felt quite dull in comparation with Hades (his father's favorite) and Zeus (the new baby); his concern over not looking like his parents like Hades and Zeus do is a good way to demostrate it. Rhea calms him down over it saying that because of his brothers' differences, he needs to be the mediator between them and then indirectly reveals that he's her favorite.
- Weiss from RWBY was revealed to be a middle child in the fourth season, though previously her younger brother was never mentioned. Weiss is the heir of her family but is still stuck between her two siblings. The oldest sibling, Winter, doesn't have Parental Favoritism (her father essentially disowned her due to disagreeing with her career path) however she is a strong, successful woman and a Cool Big Sis to Weiss. Weiss' Bitch in Sheep's Clothing younger brother Whitley is the favorite child and inherits her title as heir. This leaves Weiss stuck in an awkward position as the teenager who's trying to make a name for herself besides being a Schnee.
- Animaniacs: Yakko is the oldest and is often The Leader of the siblings (it's him who becomes King of Anvilania). Dot likewise is the only girl and gets a lot of attention as The Cutie. Wakko meanwhile is the Cloud Cuckoo Lander, with an inexplicable British accent (something his brother and sister don't have), who usually just goes along with what the other two do - although it's he who is the instigator of the Big Damn Movie (named "Wakko's Wish" too). The trope is alluded to in one episode when Wakko tries to walk down an upward-moving escalator.
Yakko: Middle kid syndrome.
- Even more inexplicable than his British accent, in the Spanish dub, Wakko is voiced by a woman (Giset Blanco), who not only makes him sound like a woman, but is also rather inconsistent with his voice. Sometimes, he sounds low and hoarse; other times, he's nasally; still other times, he's very high pitched..
- Bob's Burgers: Tina and Louise will occasionally chalk up their brother Gene's eccentric behavior to him being the middle child (like his obsession with his new Sasquatch mask in "Beefsquatch").
- While The Powerpuff Girls are triplets and, thus, the same age, Buttercup still falls right into Middle Child Syndrome by being noticeably brattier than Blossom and Bubbles, who in turn behave like an Oldest and Youngest Child respectively. According to the DVD Commentary for The Movie, this is because while Blossom and Bubbles got Meaningful Names, Buttercup got saddled with her name just for the sake of Added Alliterative Appeal.
- The Simpsons: Lampshaded by Lisa: "Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday overlooked middle child, happy birthday to me." Which is strange because a lot of episodes show she's a likely candidate as Homer's favorite (He takes her places she likes that he finds boring, helped out with her soccer team, stuff like that). For him, Maggie is more this trope, since there are times he even forgets she exists.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks: Simon, despite being the tallest, smartest and most mature of the Chipmunks, is the middle child. Even though Alvin is shorter and the most rambunctious, he is actually the oldest. One episode of the 80's series has Simon feeling he doesn't get as much attention because Alvin is a troublemaker and Theodore is a crybaby; eventually David tells him that he loves them equally but Simon doesn't need as much attention because he's the most mature of them and knows better than they do.
- On Daria, the title character's mom Helen was the middle child, and apparently became an over-achiever to get attention. Deconstructed, however, when her sisters reveal that they think of her as the favorite, since she was always off winning awards "to make us look lazy."
- Lampshaded in The Tick: Wannabe-superhero Baby Boomerangutan is a man dressed as an orangutan who carries three baby dolls he can throw at evildoers. The middle child (which he explicitly calls as such) is only employed in dire emergencies because it's stuffed with explosives.
- Sometimes invoked with Gene on Bob's Burgers.
- The Loud House focuses on Lincoln, who's not only the only boy out of eleven siblings, but smack-dab in the middle to boot, with five older and five younger sisters.
- Averted in We Bare Bears with Panda being The Baby of the Bunch as he's constantly being coddled or protected by is older brother Grizz or younger brother Ice Bear.
- DuckTales (2017): With Huey being the responsible and reliable oldest brother, and Louie being the youngest brother who always needs to have someone keeping an eye on him to keep him out of trouble, that leaves Dewey being mostly indistinguishable from his siblings. That results in him being the most outgoing, the most willing to make new friends, and the most boldly adventurous of the triplets.