What is the Youngest Child Syndrome?

Read the first part of Kaitlin’s story—about the age gap between her sisters—here.

This past Christmas, Kaitlin made an 8-hour road trip with her parents alone. She’s the youngest child out of five daughters. It was an odd experience, being stuck in a car with her parents, because it was the first time she’d traveled alone with them. Her other sisters had gotten sick, so they stayed home while she bore her sworn duty. She suffered from the Youngest Child Syndrome.

Youngest Child Syndrome

No, it’s not a real syndrome, but if you’re the youngest child with multiple siblings, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the expectation that you obey your family’s orders. The older siblings—and the parents, occasionally—tell you what to do. And most of all, it’s being a child even when you’re not. As Kaitlin’s four sisters (who are several years apart from her) moved out of the house, she experienced the Youngest Child Syndrome more and more.

Christmas was one example, being obligated to go with her parents even when it was awkward to be alone with them. She uses people as “safety blankets,” as she lovingly says. In a crowd of strangers, those safety blankets are the people she clings to, like her sisters. But this Christmas her sisters didn’t go, so she instead clung to her parents, which was a weird experience for her.

Adult Conversation With…Not Her

“My relationship with my parents is a lot different than it would have been if I was an older child.”

As the youngest, Kaitlin has to deal with the lack of adult conversation. Her older sisters, who have grown up conversing with her parents about marriages, first houses, pregnancies, and all matters of life, are well-versed in the art of adult conversation. However, her parents don’t do the same with her. Those conversations are saved for her sisters.

Kaitlin is still finding out who she is in that vast world we call college. And through it all, she can embrace being the youngest as a strength and a new perspective on life.

If you enjoyed this post, read my introductory post to this series “Roots.”

Abby Jewett is an English Major at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, MN. She is an aspiring author with an ever-growing curiosity for the world around her. Follow her on Twitter and read her personal blog.

Featured Photo © Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

One thought on “What is the Youngest Child Syndrome?

  1. I’m not in college, but I still have to figure out ways to have meaning conversations with people I’ve known forever. Relationships changes and we have to find new footing. Thoughtful post.


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