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American families are shrinking in size, making middle children an endangered species. New York Magazine's Adam Sternbergh and psychologist Catherine Salmon unpack the ramifications.

Run Time: 35 minutes

American families are getting smaller. Since the 1970s the average American family has shifted from three or more children to two or less. Which raises the interesting question: what happens to culture when there are fewer middle children. The middle child has prevailed as the most reliable narrator in many novels, television shows and movies, but will their reign last when fewer people can relate?

In this episode of the podcast, we talk with writer Adam Sternbergh about his fascinating article in New York Magazine: “The Extinction of the Middle Child.” We also talk to Dr. Catherine Salmon, a psychologist who studies birth order, among many other nuances of family dynamics. Through it all, we reveal the many reasons why middleborns make the world better and why Americans need to preserve their legacy.

As mentioned in the show, be sure to check out Bruce Hopman’s Smack Dab blog.


Adam Sternbergh

Adam Sternbergh is a contributing editor at New York magazine and the former culture editor of the New York Times Magazine. He is also the author of three acclaimed crime novels, including his most recent, THE BLINDS. He lives in Brooklyn.

Catherine Salmon

Catherine Salmon received her BSc in Biology in 1992 and her PhD in Evolutionary Psychology in 1997 from McMaster University. After a number of blissful years as a post-doctoral researcher at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, she fled the frozen north to join the faculty at the University of Redlands in southern California where she is currently a professor in the Psychology department. She is the co-author (with Donald Symons) of Warrior Lovers: Erotic fiction, evolution and female sexuality and The Secret Power of Middle Children (co-authored with Katrin Schumann) and is currently working on a book on the founders of Evolutionary Psychology with Barry Kuhle (Scranton University). Her primary research interests include birth order/parental investment/sibling conflict, reproductive suppression and dieting behaviour, and male and female sexuality, particularly as expressed in pornography and other erotic genres. Currently, she is the editor-in-chief of Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and the treasurer of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.

Show Credits


  • Clip from The Brady Bunch courtesy of Paramount Television


The Findings Report theme song was composed by Daniel Munkus

Other music heard in this episode:

  • Asa Kusa by Ellis Island Sound
  • Cultures by Minim
  • Feel Tha Groove by Fleece Panther
  • Ha by Clint Snow
  • Neighborhood by Clint Snow
  • Plastic by Purple Moons

Above music tracks licensed from our friends at Marmoset Music.


  • Transcription: Lydia Ward
  • Production Support: Grady Lopez
  • Contributor: Valerie Cabrera Krause


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