The meaning of an afterthought or afterthought in the family

An offspring is the last child in a family with many older brothers or sisters. It is not always easy to be an afterthought, sometimes his birth was not planned and sometimes he is born with a mission. Due to large families, more descendants were born in the past than is the case in 2019. It is often thought that late comers are terribly spoiled, but many late comers have had to entertain themselves and have felt lonely as children. They wonder why they were born and whether they were wanted. Your place in the family has a major influence on your adult life.

What is a follower?

A child is called an afterthought if the parents assumed that no more children would be born and the child is a lot younger than the other children. Actually, there is no identical definition, because one person calls it a follower if there is a five-year age difference between the previous child and the last-born, while someone else believes that there should be at least eight years after the previous child. However, the child must have been born from the same biological parents, we are not talking about blended families where the ages can mix.

The place in the family

Biological aspects, environmental factors and our upbringing shape who we are and what we do in life. We call this nature (heredity) and nurture (learned behavior). The place of the child in a family has a great influence on his character, this applies to the eldest child who is born first and certainly also applies to the next child who is born when the family is already complete. In some families children are more than welcome, almost as a matter of course, while in other families this can be very different. In 2019, fewer descendants are born than was previously the case and families were generally larger.


It is often thought that late comers are spoiled children, but it turns out that many late comers felt lonely during their youth. As a follower, you may later ask yourself why you were born. Was it actually the intention and am I wanted?

Most of the sequelae were not planned, this certainly applies to children whose parents did not use contraception, the pill came on the market in the Netherlands in 1964. Even in later years there were and are people who did not want to use contraception for religious or other reasons.

The pros and cons of being an afterthought

As a follower, there are often many years between the last born and the previous child, which has nice and less nice sides

Source: Stevepb, Pixabay


  • the road has been paved
  • get all the attention
  • more prosperity
  • are often allowed more
  • friends of different ages

The parents have already raised more children and have seen that everything turned out fine, but the reins could be loosened a little with the youngest. Parents, brothers and sisters have time and attention for the follower, and there is often more money to do fun things or buy something nice.

Because the youngest is used to dealing with people of different ages with different interests, he will be able to adapt well and will often have friends who are older or younger.


  • you are missing a piece of the family history
  • have to perform
  • the parents have already experienced everything
  • old parents (activities, early death)
  • attention from brothers/sisters
  • loneliness

As a follower, you miss a number of years that the other family members experienced, , you weren’t there yet,, which makes you an outsider. Parents generally have more time and will be more consciously concerned with the ins and outs of their last child. Expectations may be high and the child may feel pressure to comply with the parents’ wishes. The opposite is also possible, the parents have experienced all phases of their children’s lives several times, are relaxed and do not sit on top of the child.

In general, the parents of a follower are a bit older, they may be less active or they can no longer muster the energy to go out with the youngest. That role can be taken over by the brothers and sisters who will regularly pamper the follower.

Although every (family) situation is different, most descendants often feel lonely while growing up. The brothers and sisters lead their own lives and will at some point stand on their own two feet and leave the parental home.

Planned and desired?

Apart from offspring that were and are born spontaneously and unplanned, parents may have different motivations for having another offspring.

Chance baby

There can be several reasons why parents decide to have another child. This may have to do with the death or illness of a child/children from the family, or children who have taken a different path than the parents had in mind.

Consequence : the parents have high expectations of the child, the child must do better, he is expected to perform. This can cause the child to become a very perfectionist, he feels the pressure and may become someone who wants to please others, and he will often become a good mediator.

Glue baby

A glue baby is consciously planned, often the reason is a relationship that is no longer going well and the parents try to breathe new life into the relationship with a new baby. This usually fails, a child cannot bond with his parents’ relationship and no matter how small the child is, he senses the parents’ expectations.

Consequence : the child does not feel wanted and wonders whether he or she is allowed to be there. It will do its best to keep peace in the family and will be a good unifying factor when it grows up.


Parents may have had a bad start or may have gotten better financially. That could be a reason to have another child. They can often give the child more materially than was the case with the previous children. Parents can focus on the child and give it plenty of space to develop.

Consequence : the child can feel secure, feels free to make his own choices, which will also have an effect later. The parents may be (too) indulgent, which can cause the growing child to be spoiled and hardly corrected, so that he or she does not learn to take others into account. That can cause problems later. Or the child is (unconsciously) kept small because the parents have time to enjoy their youngest and it is the last chance for the mother to fully care and mother.


It happens that if one of the parents, especially the mother, has depressive symptoms, it is thought that a new baby can contribute to the mother’s happiness and give her a reason to exist again.

Consequence : a child cannot bear that burden, his parents must be there for him, not the other way around. The child is not responsible for the happiness of his parents. There is a good chance that the child, as an adult, feels responsible for the well-being of his environment.

How do I find my place in the family as an afterthought?

It can be difficult for an afterthought to find his place in the family, the family was already complete and suddenly a small child is added. The brothers and sisters are often not looking forward to this, and the previous child may also be jealous of the arrival of the baby who suddenly gets all the attention and, as it were, dethrones him/her. The older brothers and sisters have their own lives and are usually too old to be a playmate for the follower, although it often happens that an older brother or sister does things with him and is a second father/mother to him. The latter can be a disadvantage.

To be recognized and appreciated

With so many parents taking everything off the child’s hands and making decisions for him, the child can become an adult who is not used to making decisions independently. To your brothers and sisters, you were the little brother or sister that they did not take very seriously and there was always commentary on your behavior. The follower can do less than his brothers and sisters, this has a major effect on his character. When growing up, this can make the need to belong, be recognized and appreciated very strong. Of course, this does not apply to all followers, there are some who go their own way and refuse all help, no matter how young they are.

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