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06 Feb

Indeed, when I began work on my new book about middle children, written with Dr Catherine Salmon, I was amazed at how much ill-feeling we encountered — not just in interviews we conducted with many middle children, but also in dozens of internet forums, where a host of middle children said they had in some way been abandoned by their parents.

For, as we discovered during our research, the stereotype does not correspond to reality.

Within their families, they are said to be neglected, underestimated and misunderstood.

The hero of the anti-apartheid struggle Nelson Mandela, the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, the Polish campaigner against Soviet tyranny, Lech Walesa, and the architect of Egypt’s peace with Israel in the Seventies, Anwar Sadat, were all middles.In fact, Kennedy, during his brilliant but all-too-brief career, displayed several of the qualities associated with high-achieving middle children: communication skills, a gift for friendship, a powerful sense of justice, coolness under pressure and an ability to negotiate.This was reflected in his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when he saved mankind from possible nuclear annihilation.So they learn the art of delayed gratification, one of the true measures of civilised behaviour.Interacting with those older and younger than them, they also learn the art of compromise.