What Is Eldest Daughter Syndrome?
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What Is Eldest Daughter Syndrome?

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It’s always nice when an expression emerges that captures something we’ve long needed words for, and this week that expression is eldest daughter syndrome. Though it might seem self-explanatory, the term actually carries with it a lot of birth-order-related subtext.

Below, find everything you need to know about what eldest daughter syndrome is, which famous pop-culture figures appear to suffer from it, and how you can ease its symptoms in your own life.

What is eldest daughter syndrome?

The term describes an all-too-common situation in which the eldest daughter in a family is tasked with outsized and often developmentally inappropriate responsibilities as a result of her position in the family’s birth order. People dealing with the effects of eldest daughter syndrome might find themselves struggling to uphold boundaries, devoting too much of their energy to people-pleasing, or finding it hard to shake a type A or overachiever mentality in their day-to-day lives.

Why is eldest daughter syndrome suddenly in the culture?

Kati Morton, a marriage and family therapist, recently went viral for her TikTok explanation of eldest daughter syndrome. In the video she explains that the term is “not an official mental health diagnosis” but rather one coined to describe the experience of eldest daughters who “are responsible for more domestic labour than our siblings”.

@katimorton The 8 signs you have eldest daughter syndrome… #eldestdaughter #siblings #siblingcheck ♬ original sound – Kati Morton, LMFT

Who are some famous pop-culture sufferers of eldest daughter syndrome?

Meadow Soprano – eldest child and only daughter of the law-flouting, dysfunctional Soprano clan – springs to mind. Sure, she had her spoiled-princess moments, but a lot was also expected of her – and she put a lot of pressure on herself – especially in comparison to her more freewheeling little brother, AJ.

Shameless’s Fiona Gallagher and The Simpsons’s Lisa Simpson fit the bill, too, and on the literary end of things, Jane Austen’s Jane Bennet – the eldest of the five Bennet sisters – appears to be one of the earliest examples of the archetype. (Actually, if we go all the way back to Greek mythology, Hestia, the virgin goddess of the hearth and home, was the firstborn daughter of Titans Cronus and Rhea, so maybe she was the blueprint?)

Where can I learn more about eldest daughter syndrome?

Personally, I’d highly recommend writer and curve model Kendra Austin’s podcast, which is appropriately titled Eldest Daughter and delves deep into the concepts of breaking lifelong cycles and healing generational trauma. Trauma counsellor Kelly McDaniel’s book Mother Hunger: How Adult Daughters Can Understand and Heal from Lost Nurturance, Protection, and Guidance is another potentially helpful resource, as is Lindsay Gibson’s Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal.

This article was originally published on British Vogue.

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