Not so long ago, it was thought that being an only child was unfortunate for people. There have been studies about birth order, and how it affects people, but what about those that are the only child. Does it make a difference? Is it bad – or good for you?
When we think about only children, we often imagine that they are spoiled, get into trouble, selfish, can’t make friends and, in general, are just brats. For years, people in American society have passed judgment on only children, with one of the first research studies on the topic occurring way back in 1895. According to the study done by Granville Stanley Hall, and the results that were published following the study by E.W. Bohannon called A Study of Peculiar and Exceptional Children found that those that were only children tended to be ugly, behave poorly and were peculiar.
It is important to remember that when the study was published, it was entirely normal to have many children, and of the 1045 children that were surveyed, only 46 of them were only children. However, this is where the idea of bratty only children started, and, so it has stuck.
What’s actually going on?
These days, there is remarkably little stigma associated with being an only child, and, in fact, some feel that only children actually have the upper hand when it comes to the benefits. In 1988, one researcher and his partner looked at 115 studies of children and families between 1925 and 1988 from the US and Canada. They included people of all races, economic stature and cultures. The results of the studies actually found that only children are not selfish or bratty. They often did better when it came to their self esteem and academic achievements than their peers with siblings.
Newer studies have examined the socialization skills of only children and have discovered that there isn’t actually that much of a gap anymore. What’s more, it gets smaller as children get older. Just because a child doesn’t have siblings, doesn’t mean they never play with anyone or participate in activities with other children.
As it turns out, being an only child might be advantageous for people, as they are more likely to enjoy more attention, time and their parents likely have more resources to spend on them. Not only that, but some suggest that only children are unlikely to feel left out or neglected like children with siblings sometimes do.
Ultimately, it appears that only children are not at a disadvantage in life. They are not typically bratty, rude, selfish or unattractive, and they are just as likely as children with siblings to enjoy a rich, well rounded social life.