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'Eldest Daughter Syndrome' Linked to Depression in Women

Eldest daughters have a natural impulse to check in on people and make sure everyone is doing what they should - Natalie Moore, family therapist

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‘Eldest Daughter Syndrome' Linked to Depression in Women

Are you too responsible for your own good? Are you highly critical of any mistake you make? Are you a perfectionist? You must be an oldest daughter.

All jokes aside, while there are certainly youngest children, middle children and only children who also possess these characteristics, these traits are most closely associated with eldest daughters ― a concept known as eldest daughter syndrome.

A recent study about the topic found that firstborn daughters actually mature faster than other children because of the stress their moms experienced while pregnant.

That means there is truly something to the popular videos and memes about the struggles associated with being an eldest daughter, which include having to take care of grown-up tasks as a kid, being the one to organize family gatherings, and an inability to ask anyone for help.

It’ll come as no surprise to any eldest daughter that this isn’t easy, and it’s likely overwhelming to think about everything that you feel you need to get done.

If you are looking to feel happier and more fulfilled, therapists say there is one thing that’s standing in the way of your happiness: over-responsibility.

‘Eldest Daughter Syndrome' Linked to Depression in Women

According to Natalie Moore, a licensed marriage and family therapist in California, it’s common for eldest daughters to “feel overly responsible for their family of origin.”

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They may feel responsible for younger siblings and even their parents, she added.

They may also feel like they need to carry “the mental load,” or the invisible tasks required to keep a family afloat, such as getting birthday gifts for a nephew or making sure that your siblings wish your parents a happy anniversary.


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You’re likely aware that societal expectations for girls and women differ from those for boys and men, which only further adds to the over-responsibility that many oldest daughters feel,” Moore said.

We tend to expect girls and women to be more emotionally attuned and take on more of a caregiver role,” she said. “So eldest daughters have that double dose. Not only are they the oldest, and so they’re the most mature, [but also] there’s those expectations on them.”

Many eldest daughters have a natural impulse to check in on people and make sure everyone is doing what they should, Moore added.

What’s more, eldest daughters often become the leader of a friend group, or the friend who everyone can count on — “but no one’s there for you,” Harris said.

And how would all of this not impact happiness?

When anybody takes on more responsibility than is appropriate or they can handle, they’re going to be more apt to feel overwhelmed,” Moore said. “They can get burnt out. They can experience symptoms of anxiety or depression.”

By Jillian Wilson for Huffington Post


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