What is a glass child? Meaning explained - plus symptoms of middle child syndrome and youngest child traits

Families come in multiple different forms

Families come in all forms, and no matter how many parents and children are in each family each member has their place within their unit.

We know that each family has their own ways of functioning, but there are some ways of defining certain members of the family which we will all be familiar with - glass child, middle child and oldest child. But, just what are the definitions of each of these roles and how can they impact those who hold them?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Middle child syndrome, traits of youngest children and glass children explained.

What is a glass child?

Glass children are siblings of a person who has a disability. The word glass is chosen to describe them because people tend to see right through them and focus only on the person with the disability. In addition, this child may appear to be strong, but in reality they may not not be at all and people should be aware that they could be fragile and special care and attention should be paid to them.

According to a 2022 journal article on the subject, siblings of disabled or chronically ill children are often hidden family members and their needs for support might not be met.

What are the traits of a glass child?

Glass children can often take on adult-like responsibilities within their families from an early age as they attempt to support their parents and their sibling. As a result, they can grow up, and become more mature, much quicker than their peers. Glass children can often feel like their physical and mental needs are overlooked as their parents and carers must spend a disproportionate amount of time looking after their sibling. Current research, however, is limited in its understanding of the glass child’s lived experiences.

What is middle child syndrome?

Middle child syndrome is the belief that, where there are three children or more in a family, middle children are excluded, ignored, or even neglected because of their birth order. According to Yorkshire-based children’s bed specialist Room To Grow, the middle child can often feel like they have no defined role within the family. This is because the older child gets all of the firsts while the middle child is treated as the baby of the family, and each of these children receive attention for these reasons - but the middle child is often trying to live up to one or both of their siblings.

Middle children can be resentful of their older and younger siblings, but they can also become a good mediator or negotiator within the family because they have developed good social skills.

It could, however, be an advantage to be a middle child because they have both an older and younger sibling, and benefits from both of these positions. They have an older sibling to look up to and learn from. For example, they may teach them how to tie their shoes.  The younger sibling, on the other hand, idolises them and by helping to take care of them they are learning to be a nurturer.

What are the traits of the youngest child?

Youngest children tend to have more freedoms than their older siblings because by the time they are born their parents have settled in to their roles as mums and dads. As a result of this, they tend to be more independent. They may also, as previously mentioned, be treated like the baby of a family, and that could mean they are accused of being demanding or spoiled. They may also sometimes feel like they are treated younger than they are, and can struggle to feel like they are being taken seriously.

Youngest children are also often very loving because they have had a lot of people show them affection, and in turn they have always had a lot of people to show affection to. A 2015 YouGov poll found that younger siblings are more likely to say they are more funny, more easy going and more relaxed.