040: Only children: Are they as bad as advertised?

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Today’s episode comes to us as a result of a listener named Sylvia who wrote to me saying she and her partner don’t want another child but are worried about the potential impact on their daughter of growing up without siblings.  But why would there be a potential impact?

Turns out there’s a slew of information in the popular press about how only children grow up with no way to learn social skills, which makes them simply awful to be around.  And everybody agrees – from parents of multiples and children who grew up with siblings, to parents of only children and even only children themselves – that only children are more selfish and not as nice to spend time with as children who grew up with siblings.

No wonder Sylvia is worried!

Personally I don’t have this problem; my own selfishness about not wanting a second child has overridden the issue of growing up without siblings to the extent that I had actually never considered it a potential problem until I received the question.  But having pondered it and found that there is some research on it, I decided the time was ripe to find out whether only children really are as awful as popular wisdom says they are and, if so, what I could do about it before it’s too late!

Listen up, my friends.  Will I be vindicated, or will I throw away that pack of birth control pills before the end of the episode?

References

Bohannon, E.W. (1896). A study of peculiar and exceptional children. Pedagogical Seminary 4(1), 3-60.

Falbo, T. (2012). Only children: An updated review. The Journal of Individual Psychology 68(1), 38-49.

Fenton, N. (1928). The only child. Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology 35, 546-556.

Mancillas, A. (2006). Challenging the stereotypes about only children: A review of the literature and implications for practice. Journal of Counseling and Development 84(3), 268-275.

McKibben, B. (1998). Maybe one. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Nachman, P., & Thompson, A. (1997). You and your only child: The joys, myths, and challenges of raising an only child. New York, NY: Skylight.

Newman, S. (2001). Parenting an only child: The joys and challenges of raising your one and only. New York, NY: Broadway.

Polit, D.F., Nuttall, R.L., & Nuttall, E.V. (1980). The only child grows up: A look at some characteristics of adult only children. Family Relations 29(1), 99-106.

Roberts, L., & Blanton, P. (2001). “I always knew mom and dad loved me best”: Experiences of only children. Journal of Individual Psychology 21, 155-160.

Sandler, L. (2013). One and only: The freedom of having an only child, and the joy of being one. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Simon, R.W. (2008). The joys of parenthood, reconsidered. Contexts 7(2), 40-45.

1 Comment

  1. Tracy Henderson on June 14, 2017 at 1:56 AM

    Thanks for this vote of confidence, Jen! As parents committed to a “one and only” family, we often wonder about the effects of “only” on our son’s happiness, achievement, social graces, etc., your podcast allowed me to breathe a short sigh of relief (short because there are so many other things too worry about!). It seems only children need an image makeover!

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