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People share experience as #EldestDaughterSyndrome trends on TikTok

While some social media crazes are just the latest health or beauty trend, others reflect more closely what people are experiencing in day-to-day life – and this one fits in the latter group.

So, what exactly is ‘Eldest Daughter Syndrome’ and is it a real thing?

The hashtag is being used by many TikTok content creators who can relate to what it’s like to be the eldest child, especially as a female, and the added pressures they face.

TikTok users have shared similar experiences. Many post about having to look after and protect younger siblings, resolve issues between parents, be highly organised and be a ‘good’ daughter. This can also differ, depending on social, economic, religious and cultural factors.

“From when we are little, the main word that always comes up is responsibility,” says one user.

Is it a real thing? “It’s based on Alfred Adler’s Birth Order Theory, which explores how a person is influenced by social and community factors, e.g. how family dynamics affect a child’s behaviour,” says counsellor Lisa Spitz. “This is different from personality traits they’re born with.”

What does the theory say? Adler’s theory suggests that different positions in a family birth order may impact on positive and negative life outcomes, and the experiences of the eldest, middle and youngest are different.

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How does the eldest fit into this? The firstborn – who may struggle when new siblings come – is thought to either become more conservative or a helper. The second child may be good at cooperating but competitive, while the last born can be attention-seeking and babied.

What are classic Eldest Daughter Syndrome traits? “Achiever, leader, feeling superior, difficulty adjusting to new siblings, feeling unloved and neglected, controlling and authoritative, use of ‘good/bad’ behaviour to regain parents’ attention, a desire to please others and reliability,” lists Spitz.

How can this affect us as adults? “If your parents noticed you weren’t given as much attention or were ‘acting out’ and addressed it then there are no ill effects. If they relied on you too much, then you might have an over-inflated sense of importance or care for others,” says Spitz.

Why are so many posting about it? “People are always looking for experiences that resonate with them – younger siblings relate to the ‘overbearing’ older(est) sibling – and the ability to ‘share’ our experiences these days is frighteningly easy,” adds Spitz.

Is there any harm in the trend? “Personally, I think anything to do with social media should come with a health warning when it can affect the way we see ourselves and experiences – even though this trend appears harmless, just eldest children calling out parents.”

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How can we improve the experience of the eldest? “The reality is we should look at the expectations adults place on children and how realistic they actually are,” suggests Spitz.

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