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Is It Selfish to Have Any Only Child?

Is It Selfish to Want Just One Child?

When you hear that a family has an only child, what comes to mind — about both the child and the parents? While common stereotypes may lead us to think of only children as being lonely or selfish and of their parents as being consumed with status over family, Lauren Sandler, the author of One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One, begs to differ. In her recent op-ed for The New York Times, Sadler — who is an only child herself and mother to one — argues the case that not only are only children just as likely to thrive as those with siblings, but also, their parents are likely to be happier and more relaxed.

The differences between only children and those raised with siblings tend to be positive ones. Ms. Falbo and Ms. Polit [researchers at the University of Texas] examined hundreds of studies in the 1980s and found that only children had demonstrably higher intelligence and achievement; only children have also been found to have more self-esteem. These findings, which have been confirmed repeatedly in recent years, hold true regardless of whether parents of only children stayed together and regardless of economic class.

With current statistics showing that one in five American families now have just one child, the topic is particularly relevant. "Call me selfish but, as the mother of one child, I enjoy more time, energy, and resources than I would if I had more children. And it is hard to imagine that this isn't better for my family as well as for me," Sadler wrote. What do you think? Is having an only child selfish on the part of the parents? Are only children at any sort of disadvantage compared to their peers with siblings?

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