Advantages and Disadvantages of Being an Only Child
There is a myth that someone who is an only child is likely to be more selfish than someone who has siblings. People believe that they’re spoiled and lonely. In fact, it used to be commonplace for an only child to be referred to as the "lonely child." According to conventional wisdom, they're antisocial, anti-sharing, and not very good at playing well with others—but at the same time, they may be a little savvier, compared to those with siblings. Only children didn’t score as well as participants with siblings in the personality trait known as “agreeableness.” However, they did score better in flexibility, which is thought to be a marker of creativity.
Older siblings can be personal coaches, but they can also be your worst nightmare. While having a sibling can help you prepare for chaos (whether it's fun chaos or the terrifying kind), having a controlling sibling can make it harder for you to socialize outside of your family. You may gain social intelligence from having siblings, but you may also gain social intelligence from being an only child. There are many pros and cons to being an only child. Let's take a look at some of the major advantages and disadvantages of this kind of family structure.
When children are young, their first lessons in social dynamics usually involve siblings. Children learn from both their own actions toward a sibling and the actions of their sibling toward them. They also learn from the mistakes they observe their siblings make. They experience disagreements and discord with one another which their parent then mediates by perhaps separating the children, teaching them how to work out their problem, or delivering consequences.— Caroline Artley, LCSW-C Psychotherapist
Pros and Cons of Being the Only Child
You get the undivided love and attention of your parents.
The child could develop "little emperor syndrome," which is a situation in which the parents lavish their love, attention, and resources on one child, and as a result, the child becomes spoiled and behaves like a "little emperor."
Obviously, being an only child means that your parents have only you to spend the money on, so you will not have to share it among other siblings.
The child gets used to having everything done, managed, and taken care of by their parents.
You get more toys than normal, more money to spend than normal, and more inheritance than normal.
They may lack self-confidence.
You may grow up to be more independent and able to fend for yourself better, if your parents haven't spoiled you by tending to your each and every need.
The lack of help from older siblings may put too much pressure on the parents and cause conflicts.
You are not expected to live up to the standards of older siblings.
Parents may become too attached to the child's success and try to live through them, rather than giving them space.
Parents are able to spend more money, time, and attention on the child's school. Parents will find it easier to save for their child's college education.
Perhaps the most apparent disadvantage of being an only child is the feeling of loneliness. Not having a sibling to play with regularly, or who they are able to share their thoughts and memories with, can be difficult.
You may become more comfortable talking to adults.
When your parents get older, being an only child can leave you to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of your parents on your own, which might be overwhelming.
Parents may spend more time teaching you to be independent so that you can build your confidence and feel less pressure.
Parents may put too much pressure on the child, causing anxiety and low self-esteem.
Being the only child is tough, because their playmate is also the authority figure. If a child hits their sibling, maybe the sibling hits them back. Maybe the parent scolds or punishes the child. But it is understood that the punishment is because of actions toward the sibling. If the child hits their parent as a playmate, the parent scolds or punishes the child, and the child feels the added weight of separation from the attachment figure.— Caroline Artley, LCSW-C Psychotherapist
My Experience With Having Siblings
There are many advantages and disadvantages to being an only child. However, how each child turns out really depends on how the child has been brought up, among other factors.
Personally, I always wished I was the only child in my family. Perhaps it is not a nice thing to say, but that's how I genuinely feel! You know, the grass always seems greener on the other side. In my specific situation, the age gap between me and my brother was just three years, and, therefore, there was a lot of rivalry and acrimony between us (all throughout childhood). These were not the usual sibling arguments, they really left a big mark on me. Being the eldest in my family, I always felt that I was not treated fairly when it came to certain situations, especially conflicts. I was always expected to be magnanimous, largehearted, and always to forgive and forget—whereas my younger brother was doted on and shielded. I still feel that to be the case to this day. We get along much better now, but it isn't your usual loving relationship—more formal than familial and loving.
My mom still dotes on my little brother to no end, which is good, but she doesn't see me the same way, which is what I regret and bemoan. I've never quite understood this difference. At times, I think to myself that this is all my imagination—that I am just seeing things that aren't there! But, in reality, this is not the case. Anyone could tell the difference in how we are treated. Perhaps, a lot of you would have no clue about what I am talking about. Then again, there may be a lot of you who know exactly what I am talking about. Each individual has their own unique family experiences. Whether being an only child is an advantage or disadvantage, is truly a tough question to answer. While I'm sure there are some lonely people out there, there is no real definitive answer to this question, as the responses to this question would be highly subjective and would vary based on each person's own unique personal experience.
Having Siblings vs. Being the Only Child
Is it good to have a sibling?
Having a sibling may in fact make you more selfless. That said, it really depends on your family atmosphere and the values you are raised with. To make an absolute statement about this is reckless. While research suggests that having a sibling may help a child develop sympathy, there are obviously exceptions to this. Having a quality relationship with a brother or sister may promote altruism in teens, especially in boys. That said, siblings can also be bad influences, in which case, you may see a child become more selfish as a defense mechanism, protecting themselves against greedy or controlling siblings.
What percentage of the population are only children?
Today, in developed countries, nearly 47 percent of households with children are one-child families. There appears to be a direct correlation between wealth and career opportunities and having less children. In the U.S., the national average is about 20 percent. The Pew Research Center reports that the average size of an American family has been shrinking, from 3.7 children in 1960 to just 1.9 today.
Is an only child truly a lonely child?
Studies have shown that a reluctance to have one child is one of the major reasons for why parents have more. This is due to parents fearing that the only child will grow up without socializing enough with other kids. However, research shows that only children are no more selfish, spoiled, or lonely than anyone else. In fact, some are better at socializing with adults and have better relationships with their parents.
Music was like my first real toy. I was an only child for a while, and I was alone a lot of the time—and I liked it. I still like being alone.— Jeff Buckley
Major Causes of Sibling Rivalry
Lack of structure
When there is a lack of or not enough structure in the home, children don’t feel safe, they feel anxious. They don’t know what to expect, don’t have that steady routine to ground them.
Tension from above
Intense sibling rivalry usually reflects intense marital issues. Children often replicate what the parents are already doing.
Negative attention or a lack of attention
When attention is short, when there is little to go around, generally one or two children will begin to act out to get what attention they can, becoming the “bad kid” who is always in trouble.
Lack of problem-solving
Problems need to be put to rest to keep them from constantly becoming a source of conflict. But often the larger concern is that if problems are not addressed, the child feels ignored, that they are not important, that they have no voice.
When one child is given much more than another child, that child begins to feel neglected, or feels as though they've done something wrong.
What happens in the sibling relationship is the catalyst for all future social engagements. Even the simple appreciation for how family and social boundaries work is learned from siblings via joining with them in coalitions against parents. You learned something very powerful about how the world works the first time you schemed with your brother about how to raid the candy drawer without your parents noticing.— Avidan Milevsky Ph.D.
Is it good to have only one child?
Having only one child is much easier on parents. Having only one child allows the parent to be more attuned to the emotional needs of the single child. Attention can be more directly focused, saving for college is easier, and it's much easier to afford a smaller home. That said, you shouldn't structure your family in such a way that makes money the primary motivator. Families are bigger than money. The choice is yours, just make sure you are capable of providing the emotional support your child needs without destroying their individuality.
How many kids is it safe for a woman to have?
This is dependent on the availability of resources, including healthy food, a good shelter, a healthy lifestyle, etc. Generally speaking, the more children a woman has, the more damaging it can be to her health in the long term. However, this damage is more visible in developing nations than it is in developed nations with well-organized and well-equipped medical services.
What are the difficulties of having multiple children?
- Having a child is a great strain on the body.
- The older a woman gets, the more risky it is for her to have a second child.
- Having more children costs more money, making it harder to save for college.
- Parents will likely not be able to spend equal time with each child.
- The more children a woman has, the harder pregnancy is on the woman's body.
What are the benefits of having multiple children?
- If you enjoy parenting, then you'll make more great memories with each child.
- The older children can help lift some of the burden off of their parents.
- Older children can babysit and help with some of the other chores.
My parents elected me president of the family when I was four. We actually had an election every year, and I always won. I'm an only child, and I could count on my mother's vote.— Condoleezza Rice
How do I know if having another child is right for me?
- Consider your finances.
- Consider whether or not you'll be able to spend adequate time with each child.
- Consider whether or not you'll be able to afford a large enough house or apartment to give your kids adequate space.
- Think about what it was like to raise you first child and weigh the pros and cons.
When should you have your second child?
Studies suggest that getting pregnant within 18 months after your first child is born can make it more likely that your second child will be born early, underweight, or smaller than usual for the number of months he was in the womb. Make sure you wait at least 18 months before becoming pregnant again.
I Would love to hear about your experiences being an only child or having siblings. Feel free to share your personal experiences!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2009 Shil1978