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Only Children Are Not Selfish and Lonely

The Kid Is All Right: Debunking the Only Child Myth

Raising a child will put you back an average of $286,050 — before college — which means more parents are stopping at one child. Thankfully, this week's Time magazine debunks the myth that these only children will grow up to be selfish, lonely adults.

We can't resist using birth order to explain our personalities and it seems intuitive that sibling-less children might experience the pros (all the parents' attention and resources) and cons (selfishness, loneliness, and a reliance on parents) of never having someone to share with. Lucky for them, modern studies suggest that only children only see increased advantages.

Following a definitive 1896 study, conventional wisdom has held that only children will be different (not in a good way) than people with siblings. But an educational psychologist from Texas, working with only children since the 1970s, has found that only children do not show any measurable difference except that they score higher when it comes to intelligence and achievement, as do firstborns and people who only have one sibling. So I guess we should stop worrying about only children and start feeling reluctant about having more than two kids — at least that would be cheaper.

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Join The Conversation
nikkisoda nikkisoda 6 years
We only have one child and we will always have one child. She is outgoing and is always making new friends. She does not have a shy bone in her body. It is frustrating when people say to me, "You have to have one more child. You can't do that to her." To which I always reply, "So I should have another child based on someone else's opinion. That's smart." Gets them every time.
genesisrocks genesisrocks 6 years
I'm an only child and I hate those stereotypes too! I'm not lonely or selfish. I had lots of friends growing up and I was way too poor to be selfish
TammyO TammyO 6 years
It really depends on the family support that the only child gets. This will of course determine if they are lonely, spoiled, etc. I am an only and as a kid I HATED it! I wanted other siblings and I always felt lonely.
seraphimm seraphimm 6 years
Natalie Love, You bring up a good point. Yet I wonder if learning how to compromise with a sibling from a young age can be a significant benefit in the long run. Personally, having quarrels and petty arguments with my older brother taught me SO much that I would not have learned with classmates/friends in grade school. If I was an only child, my parents would easily let me decide what I wanted to eat/do/have without any second thoughts [i.e. sibling(s)] - which any kid would take full advantage of. But if that was true, I don't think I would be as grateful or glad to share everything I have/earned. I've already had an extremely pressuring childhood (11pm curfew & no dating until 21,...etc.) I can't imagine being an only child - all eyes would be on me 24/7!
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 6 years
I never view only-children as spoiled or selfish, but I have noticed them being different in the way they relate to other people. But, then again, I can't debunk science. If it's been shown that being an only child doesn't make a difference, then I guess it's just been pure coincidence in who I've met. Or maybe I've just been using the only-child thing as some kind of explanation when it isn't. I can't imagine not having siblings, though! I love my brother and sister so freakin' much :)
mix-tape mix-tape 6 years
I love having siblings now that I am older. Growing up was a constant battle, trying to out do each other and competing over everything. I wouldn't want my children to miss out on experiencing the life lessons I've been taught by simply having brothers and sisters. My sisters are also my best friends.
EmilieLove EmilieLove 6 years
I'm an only child, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I've never had social issues or loneliness problems, and I HATE that stereotype that I should be some self-obsessed brat. There are many other factors that contribute to the development of our personalities, and it annoys me when people assume that being an only child has some huge, negative effect on everyone. People are different. A child with many siblings can be lonely or narcissistic, an only child can be outgoing, and vice versa.
robinlh912 robinlh912 6 years
I'm an only and I love it! I know that I've been lucky as an only, but I do kind of wish I had a sibling just because of that experience that you can only understand if you have a sibling. I do find it interesting that my boyfriend, and 3 of my closest guy friends are all only children. It's sort of like a club, we get each other pretty well I think.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
I'm an only child, and I don't understand why it's perceived as being so strange. My entire life, I've constantly been the recipient of comments like, "You're an only child? But you don't seem spoiled or bratty at all!" or "You're an only child? But you interact with people so well!" To me, it would be the equivalent of walking up to someone and saying, "Wow, you do a really good job of interacting with white people, considering your a racial minority." For some reason, it's one of the few characteristics where holding an entire class of people to a certain stereotype is still socially acceptable. And I don't really understand why people think that only children are lonely. When I was growing up, I participated in after school sports and extra-curricular activities just like all the "normal" kids, and I frequently had friends stay over at my house. I really didn't have a lot of time to sit around by myself. Also, I think being spoiled has more to do with how well off one's family is than how many siblings are in it. I have a good friend who has several siblings but who grew up in an extremely wealthy family. At age 28, she still uses her dad's credit card to purchase anything from designer clothes to fancy meals, and her sisters all do the same thing. They'll spend and exorbitant amount of money and say things like "oh, mom and dad won't even notice a $300 charge for dinner!" Meanwhile, I'm incredibly thankful if my parents buy me anything because I know they don't have a lot of extra money to throw around!
cotedazur cotedazur 6 years
I'm a proud only and wouldn't have it any other way!!
kismekate kismekate 6 years
My Dad was an only child and at 64, is still very to himself. I also have a nephew who is eight and very private, reserved, quiet, and often times very apparently lonely and bored. It makes me extremely sad.
MissSushi MissSushi 6 years
I think the whole sibling vs only rationale is incredibly stupid. That being said, I can absolutely say here and now, i will NOT be spending 16k a year on each child, and I think that's an absolutely ridiculous number.
dreamalittledream dreamalittledream 6 years
I'm an only child and personally, I love it True-I don't have siblings to hang out with or complain about my parents to-but on the flip side, being an only child makes the family dynamic more of a 'three amigos' (at least in my opinion!). I'm 23 and still go to the movies with my parents, etc. In a way, I'm much closer with them than I think I might have been if I had to share them with siblings. I go to the mall with my mom and Yankee games with my dad. It's interesting because as an only child, I was MORE outgoing and friendly than I might have been otherwise. I didn't have siblings to hang out with, so I had to make friends. I don't agreed with the term selfish either. I am spoiled to an extent, but selfish, no. It's important to note the difference, I think. Financially, it would have been a very different life for me and my family if I had a sibling. My parents would not have been able to afford the private college I attended (no loans, thanks to being an only child) and we would not have been able to afford the vacation house we've been enjoying since I was 6. However, the decision was based on age, since my parents were 40 when I was born, because I know my parents would have liked a sibling for me. Personally, I love the unique relationship with my parents too much to ever wish for a sibling! (Sorry for the long post!)
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 6 years
I agree with Totygoliguez. It depends on how the child was raised. Incidentally, the most selfish, narcissistic people I know have siblings. Having siblings does not make for more caring, positive people. JMHO.
skigurl skigurl 6 years
It makes me sad that a family who WANT more than one child stop at only one child for financial reasons. I know someone who is saying that now, and it's so sad to me. Yes, it's responsible, and nice that they want to give their one child a better life, but it's still sad to me that they are in that position that financial means affects their family unit in such a significant way. I just calculated, using that average, that it costs less than 16K per year for 18 years. I guess I can be thankful that I can afford to have a few kids with my boyfriend, (based on our current jobs, job security, and earning potential) because we want 3 or 4. To me, it's not that an only child is "spoiled" and all that - it's the fact that it's lonely and I loved having siblings to go on vacation with and hang out with. I would want the same for my child.
totygoliguez totygoliguez 6 years
Well, I don't think that only child are necessarily selfish. My cousin, who is the most wonderful and selfless person you can ever meet, is an only child. It depends the way this children are raise.
Natalie-Love Natalie-Love 6 years
I can see how a parent would have an easier time with just one child. I babysit sometimes, and my biggest headache tends to be the siblings fighting with each other. Anything you try to do, they have opposing views of. They want a different movie, different food, different entertainment;such a headache! Just dealing with one kid isn't half as easy, it's 10x easier! Ultimately, It's a personal decision, parents should decide for themselves, rather then society telling them they are failures if they have an only child. If they are happy, the child will be happy. Much better then having siblings and over stressed parents!
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