The Younger Child in Family

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It is often observed that the younger of two children in a family develops mentally easier and faster than the older one. This is because the younger child identifies not only with the parents and other adult family members, but also with the older sibling. And these are a closer, a less perfect role model to the child, so the process of identification in a younger child progresses faster. The younger child also perceives the older as a competitor to be reached. That is why it needs persistent training, diligent training of abilities, gaining as much experience as possible, acquiring as many different skills as possible. All this contributes to the relatively more lively mental development of the younger child.

But for persistent competition with the older one, the younger one needs a certain self-confidence. It misses it if its parents neglect it unlike the older child or in a more or less open way show that they do not like it as much as the older child. Poor physical development or severe physical defects can also discourage and take away the motivation to compete with a much more advanced sibling. In all these cases, the younger child can be expected to react in a neurotic way. One time they will become irritable and aggressive, the second time they will turn into passivity, laziness and lack of initiative for any useful work. Or they will be prone to psychogenic disorders of physical functions in the sense that they will “escape into illness.”

The youngest child in a line of several siblings can also find itself in a specific psychological situation. If the others are older than it, especially if it is the smallest, the youngest in the family can become the darling of all its other members. Then it is cared for not only by its parents but also by all its siblings, so such a child is brought up in an extremely lenient, protective and servile way. That is why it develops into an unusually independent, incompetent and insecure person. Because it has been the center of attention of the whole family for years, it becomes extremely egocentric, capricious and inflexible.

A typical example is a 16-year-old girl who was such a spoiled child in a family of seven siblings. She was pretty, so everyone at the house cared for and spoiled her. The more affectionate she behaved, the more they spoiled her, so she began to nurture her affection to keep and make the most of her exceptional position in the family. Her reign gradually turned into coquetry, into an artificial loveliness to which the environment still pervaded, not only within the family circle but also outside it. In order to make the people around her serve her in everything, to fulfill her every wish and to relieve her of all duties, the girl tried to make herself as interesting as possible, just an unusual, unique person.

When she went to high school, her parents placed her in a student dorm in another city, because there was no such school in their place of residence. Finding herself among unknown friends, the girl was constantly inventing some fantastic stories about her origins, about her life so far, about her abilities and life plans. At the same time, she behaved so sweetly that all her friends settled down, and with them their educators. Everyone in the dorm felt sorry for her supposedly difficult fate, everyone admired her courage with which she endured the imaginary blows of life, everyone gladly listened to her sentimental lies. Enthralled by her “charm”, her friends served her diligently: one cleaned her shoes and mended her socks, the other made her bed, the third did her homework, etc. And the girl flaunted herself among them like a peacock, entertained them with jokes or sentimental stories tickled their imagination.

That is how she managed to get the same privileged and protected position in the home as she enjoyed in the family. She applied the same tactics of achieving affirmation without effort and responsibility in school. And there she tried to “charm” the teachers and get good grades from them without proper knowledge. With a few teachers, she succeeded: they fell under the suggestion of her cuteness and sentimental affectation. But two teachers, from the most difficult subjects, English and mathematics, did not allow themselves to fall for her stories. Since the girl did not have any work habits, and intelligence, quick understanding and good memory were not enough, she received constant negative grades from these subjects. Then she tried to get away with a new neurotic trick: when answering, she began to get dizzy and faint, of course of a completely psychogenic origin. By doing so, she tried to put pressure on the relentless professors and lead them to indulgence. But she failed. At the end of the school year, however, she was left with negative grades in two subjects, so she had to repeat the class. When she received her certificate, she fainted, and a little later she tried to poison herself. She did it in such a way that the suicide could not succeed. In fact, she wanted to protest in a striking, dramatic and possibly successful way against an environment that dared “to demand that she work, use her strength and solve tasks.

Such mental development leads a young person into increasingly severe neuroticism, into hysterical behavior, and sometimes it imposes psychopathic characteristics on them if they do not undergo a more correct upbringing or re-education in time. However, the position of the youngest in the family can encourage the child to behave differently. If it is not pampered, nor given privileges, the youngest child is forced to fight for prestige not only with one but with a whole range of competitors. This can encourage it to maximize the mobilization of all intellectual forces and other abilities to fight for an equal position towards its brothers and sisters. Then the youngest child uses tricks. It hides, does not show its real abilities, only to one day, when given the opportunity to do so, it shines with its intelligence, resourcefulness and skill. Such a situation in the relationship between children in the family is taken as a motive by many folk tales: “There were three brothers; two smart and the third stupid. But in the end, this “stupid” outsmarts his “smart” brothers and achieves what others could not achieve.