Do parents sometimes sabotage the youngest child?


This is something I have been wondering lately. Both my husband and I are the youngest of 3 in our families and we have both noticed that we were less encouraged by our parents to sort of go out into the world and capture it than our older siblings.
We are both in our mid-20’s now.

My husband for instance, is very smart and successful. He went to college on a full scholarship, he basically could have gone anywhere short of Ivy League (but maybe) but he chose a school that was close to home so he could live home. Looking back, he feels he was very much pressured by his parents to stay close even though he had better grades and more opportunity than his older siblings who went to school far away with the encouragement of his parents. Even after he graduated and got a job at a very well-known company, his mom always seemed to be discouraging him to really reach for success. The company was too long a drive (30 minutes, same as his commute to college every day had been) she would say.

I notice this even with my own parents. We are looking at houses. My mom will often drop subtle hints of how big their house is and how it has so many extra bed rooms that we could certainly live with them. Now, I am greatful that I have parents that would love to have me, and being Italian (my grandmother lived with us) there is a certain comfort for her in multi-generational households, but still, I felt like she encouraged my older siblings more to get things on their own.

Anyways, those are just a couple of examples but my husband and I have noticed thousands of small examples of our parents, moms more specifically, sort of sending the message for us not to “reach too far” because it will ultimately lead us away from them. I think it has to do with being the “baby” in the family, and a parents own insecurities about being alone, and being the last to leave the nest they probably cling a little more. Sometimes it is hurtful because it feels like they are saying they don’t think we can do it on our own. But really I think it is their own fears. In some ways, I am sure we have played into it to. In my case, doing less because less was expected of me. In my husband’s case, holding himself back in certain ways because he would hurt his mother by being too independent.

Anyway, what does everyone else think about this? Either if you are the youngest and get this feeling from your parents OR if you are a parent and you have found yourself doing this either intentionally or subconsciously.


I'm sure there is a lot of truth to parents wanting to hold on to the youngest children, but I'd not call it sabotage, that sounds malicious and mean, I'd call it parents are people too and they have feelings and emotions about missing their children. The kids tend to see it as a milestone in life only for them, to get married or move out etc., but it's a big milestone for parents too. It's normal, and loving for parents to want to be close to their children so long as it doesn't get smothering. Don't be too hard on your parents.:)


I agree with shanny that it's probably not malicious or with malintent...

But, as the OP mentioned... it can have an effect on how the children view the relationships between their parents and all their siblings.

While mom and dad may just be having a hard time seeing their kids leave the nest, it may have reverse effects... the smothering can sometimes push them further away.

I'm the oldest in my family (I have 3 siblings), and from MY perspective I've certainly noticed my parents interests are mostly focused on the younger 2 (youngest is a senior in college)... like they still want to have their fingers in every new experience they're going through - as if it's their last opportunity to go through all these events in life... which is understandable, but can have it's effects...
Yet - I live the closest to my parents and have to sort of push my way in for attention... :shrug:

It's definitely something for parents to be *aware *of... making sure they "spread the love" evenly - not necessarily "love", but maybe "influence"... parenting each child equally, yet uniquely... good reminder, thank you! :)


I didn’t mean for the word sabotage to convey that parents would have a malicious intent…I sort of meant in the way we might say “so and so sabotaged their diet by having chocolate.”


It isn't the case with me ( but I am only the youngest of two ), but my husband has three aunts. The youngest has always felt this way. My mother in law, the oldest of the sisters, went to college and it was paid for. The other middle two aunts got sports scholarships to US schools, and the last one, younger by quite a few years, did not go to college because she didn't participate in sports, and her parents didn't have enough money to pay for college, and they never pushed her to go. She is very resentful of this, even to this day. She lives in the same hometown as them, and helps them out. (but so does the second oldest aunt). She has had trouble holding down jobs and relationships and blames it on her parents.

I am such an outsider in this situation that I don't really know what the situation actually is, but that is what I have been told.


My youngest brother still lives at home. The rest of us had flown the coop. One is 45 minutes away, I’m 4 hours and my other brother is 12 hours way.

I don’t think that they sabotage but they’re definatly not in a hurry for him to leave. Out of all of us he’s probably the most responsible for his age, helps around the house more than we ever cared to and actually gets along with both of them. They’re good people but…welll…I’m glad I don’t live there. :rolleyes:

I think they actually look out for his welfare and happiness alot more. For us older ones they were more concerned with getting us out of the house and on our way and seeing us fly away. They are more concered that my brother has a job he likes and all that kinda stuff.:shrug:


I'm the youngest of 3 and I don't feel this way at all. I do think that as adults, we need to own our expereinces and goals. You are an adult, married couple. You can certainly listen to your parents' advice, but don't use it as an excuse for what you are doing or for decisions made in the past. Your husband is smart and successful, he got his degree and is working. What his mom 'subtley' said while he was in college is no longer relavent. You apparently can afford your own home, great! Buy a house within your means that is in good repair, close to work and schools, are the usual stuff. Unless your parents have medical conditions that require live-in help you don't need to live with them no matter how many hints they drop. (And even if they do, you don't need to live with them--other arrangenents can be made).

Turn those conversations around--be excitied about your husband's career possibilities and encourage his parents to do the same. Tell you mom to down-size if her house is too big and get her involved in looking at houses or perhaps help her to arrange a guest suite for visiting priests, missionaries, or just family.



also the youngest may have their own issues, not exactly fear of success, but a reluctance to be compared with older siblings, so either they don’t compete, or go into other areas to distinguish themselves from the older ones. Or if they get too tired of those comparisons, choose not to shine in any area.

I also think there are parents who are controlling by nature, or who simply are unable to be positive, and that is rooted in their own personality conflicts, but the child has to live with it.


I'm the oldest. When I informed family members I was considering moving across the country for college, none supported it, and my grandfather stated it would (you can't make this stuff up) "kill him". And be assured, he expanded that he was not talking figuratively.

I think it is more about the parents than it is about the birth order, IMO.


I think this is true, and I think it borders on being immoral.

I am the 3rd of 7, and I now have 5 of my own. Parents who hold on to the last one are giving away the fact that they didn’t pay attention before. It also depends on other factors. My parents never really did this because all my siblings still live in my hometown. I’m the one that left home, and I still haven’t heard the end of it. Me, my brother, and older sisters had one treatment, and my younger sisters got away with things we never would have. My wife grew up with only one sibling, and the difference between them is night and day. She as the eldest had to set the example, while her sister 8 years younger hasn’t even done anything with her life yet. I seriously question the motives of parents who won’t let go of the youngest. Fear of being alone is a cop-out. Your children will take care of you when it is time, but their first responsibility is to their own spouses and children. Do some volunteer work at your parish if you’re lonely. You still have each other, and the freedom from supporting kids should be a relief. I will drive all my children equally, and when my youngest has finished high school, I will only be 49 years old. At that time my oldest will be nearing 31. That’s why you don’t wait until you’re 30 to start a family. I don’t want to be my parents who still had a teenager in the house in their mid-50’s. My wife and I will buy passports and the kids can reach us on our mobile phones in Istanbul. :thumbsup:


I think they will always see us as the "baby" and try to protect us. When I was a teen, my mother always told people, "This is my baby-- she's never getting married and never leaving me!!"


If there is sabotage, it would most likely be inflicted on all the children, although most likely tailored to each one. In a very psychopathic sort of way.

Keep in mind that the relationship between each parent and each child will be totally different. So the first child will likely be "the responsible one", ambitious, Type A personality, the experimental child (if the parents had little experience with children from their childhood).

If both parents had to work, then the upbringing of the children will also be different.

If a child was not held much as an infant, then the child might be more diffident.

If a child was "the little prince" (or princess), then the child growing up might have expectations of having things done for him or her later on in life.

Loss of a parent.

The first two years are very important.

But then so are other years.

There are books and articles about the relative "position" in the family rank [first child, last child, etc.] Fascinating study.

Children react to criticism in different ways. Younger children have no sense of time, so that if they do something "bad" (some very minor thing) for which they are scolded and five years later there is some terrible tragedy, they might blame themselves, even if there is absolutely no connection or relation between what they did and the other event.

Very young children are very literal. They don't react well to sarcasm; they don't understand if it's just a joke or not.

Children do love to explore new things and new ideas; they soak up stuff like a sponge. So you can expose them to word games and math games. Give them a minor incentive and they will memorize the whole encyclopedia and love every minute of it. Same with music lessons. Or sports. Or camping. Languages. They love to learn.


Ooh. Glad to see someone who thinks it borders on immoral.

I have to agree with this since I’m in that kind of situation (or was). You wouldn’t believe some of the things my mother came up with when she was faced with “losing” me. It set me up with lots of guilt and leaving me feeling as if I were an only child and had to remain with her all of my life.

I got married and moved several states away. I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and had a mastectomy as a result. My mother, in her last fit of anger with me in January, had the nerve to tell me that the cancer was God’s punishment and that I was no longer her daughter.

I really wish some parents would wake up and realize that they do not own their children.



And adults (whatever their birth order) need to be responsible for their own decisions and actions. Yes, we are molded by our parents’ attitudes while we are growing up, but if we have prespective enough as adults to recongize the manipulation (or whatever you consider it), we should also develop the maturity to put childish reactions aside and move on with our lives in peace.


I’m the youngest of four from my father. I was raised by him and my grandmother. My older siblins were all given great opportunities, and they ruined them all. I was told, byt the time I was old enough to see I was being treated differently, that they didn’t want to bother encouraging me because I’d just screw it up like my siblings had. So although I was the first and only in my family to graduate, I am also the most isolated, withdrawn and clueless, because I was never given any opportunities to try new things, see places. learn, explore. I was just kept at home and left to my own devices

I’m also visually imparied and have little independance for it. I can’t drive. I can’t go to school. I can’t work many jobs. I can barely leave the house. And it thrills my grandma, because I can be home with her 24/7 and take care of her. It’s “too much trouble” to help me be independant.


I don't think its a pattern that repeats in every family. If the parents are inept, probably each child in the family can argue that they were sabatoged in one way or another. I think there are a lot of factors that has to be taken into consideration in each family before a pattern that the youngest is the one sabatoged can be concluded. And each child in the family will probably say they each see things much differently than the other. I know my husband and his sister see things very, very differently in the way they were each raised and treated by their parents. Each of them things the other got way more attention and the parents treated the other much better.


No two children in a family have the same parents.

Think about that.

The oldest got the newbies... scared and excited and making mistakes.

The middle kids...well, the parents had more confidence. Knew which battles to fight. Could predict better and foresee. And each kid looked to the one before it as the model, where the oldest kid looked to the adults as the model.

Younger kids... well, by that time, nothing is new. Mom and dad get tired. Discipline gets lax. In my experience the younger kids aren't sabotaged as much as left with benign neglect unless the parent or both are especially diligent to make sure there are the same number of photos of Baby as there are of Heir to the Throne #1.

And life intervenes. The oldest... so eager to leave the nest... sometimes the youngest is the one most eager to leave the nest. Sometimes the youngest is the most irresponsible and doesn't leave because youngest sabotages him/herself.

No two families are alike and no kids in the same family are dealing with the same parents. Life and stresses and health issues and job and money... they all influence. Sometimes by the time the youngest comes along, there is MORE money and Family Baby doesn't have to work for that new iPod. Family Baby isn't as "hungry" as older kids.

Personalities and gender also are important. If youngest doesn't get along with people, no one will want them around and the Oldest might be guilted to stay.

My experience has been the youngest children...well, you can spot them in a room. They're usually surrounded by laughing people and they are the center of attention. The clowns. Lots of fun... but you wouldn't want to have to balance their checkbook. Whatever Family Baby wants, Family Baby gets. Attention, smiles... they're delightful. Marry them to an oldest child who likes playing with the Family Baby and knows how to put them in their place. Indulgence plus being the responsible party.

It's a fun topic, birth order.

I've seen not sabotage, but just tired parents and Family Baby goes along for the no-rules ride.

Sometimes they need to be booted off the free ride, you know?


My wife is the oldest of four, and it's very clear that her parents wanted three. The last in line is treated much differently than the rest. It's clear she's pretty much been hamstrung since day one.


It's worth reading work by Murray Bowen.

He did a lot on family interactions.

Check the internet and then visit a biggie bookstore and look through some of his books.

You can also find titles by him as used books on Amazon and on AbeBooks.

Worth checking out.



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