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Child Behavior: Only-children do not always have to be brats!



Debunking the only-child superstition

Not having siblings is thought to be a form of social deprivation for a child and is thought to have serious, damaging effects on a child’s social development. The only child is considered spoiled and socially awkward. If enough people consider this superstition as fact, they enable it and subconsciously encourage
bad behavior.

The negative stereotype of the only child is still widely accepted today, although it appears to be more myth than scientific fact. Large families are pictured in the media as experiencing a fun-loving, free for all, as depicted in Cheaper by the Dozen and the Brady Bunch.  While only children tend to be demonized, as in The Omen and The Bad Seed. Is one the loneliest number when it comes to family size?



Research paints a new picture

Are only children the self-centered “spoiled brats” they are believed to be? The answer is definitely NO! Contemporary researchers paint a much more positive portrayal of the only child.  Numerous contemporary research studies have confirmed that only-children have higher test scores in intelligence, are more achievement oriented and present a desirable and pleasant personality with adults and other children, especially in comparison to later borns and children from large families.

Having siblings does not improve your social skills, if anything only-children are better at sharing than kids with siblings. They don’t grow up with a sense of “territoriality” about their possessions or space or the need to compete for parental attention. One of many possible explanations for the only child’s higher than average ability and performance in the aforementioned areas may lie in their enjoying an exclusive relationship with their parents and enjoying all the resources that their parent can provide.

“Onlies” also tend to express a high degree of maturity and “social sensitivity” at an earlier age than children with siblings. In addition, these “onlies” have no younger children to dominate or who can dominate them, so they learn early that they need to negotiate and be accommodating if they hope to play successfully with peer playmates, which are probably as powerful as they are.


Recommended reading for parents of only children



Advantages as told by adults who have only-children:

  • Having time to pursue a career and other interests
  • Less financial pressure
  • Not having to worry about “playing favorites” among children
Disadvantages as told by adults who have only-children:
  • Wondering if a child is being overprotected or overindulged
  • Having only one chance to do a good job of parenting
  • Worrying too much about the safety of the child
  • Sometimes wanting the child to be everything: a great student, a great athlete and socially adequate
  • Only-children themselves also identified what they thought the positives and negatives were of being the only-born.
Advantages as told by only-children
  • No sibling rivalry
  • Never “dethroned” by the birth of a sibling
  • Having more privacy
  • Having undivided attention of parents and sharing a more intimate parent-child relationship
Disadvantages as told by only-children
  • Never experiencing the closeness of a sibling relationship
  • Feeling too much pressure from parents to succeed
  • Having sole responsibility to care for aging parents

Parents of only-children should avoid the pitfalls of only-child-parenting like lavishing a cornucopia of gifts on their only-child. Parents need to expand the child’s network of friends to replace what siblings might provide.