Newsflash: The onlies aren't lonely, and your sibling may have scarred you for life!!!

[deleted account] ( 12 moms have responded )

The only child myth debunked!

Whether it’s your mother-in-law hassling you about having another baby or the neighbor down the street hinting that Junior would be better behaved if he had a sibling, there’s an assumption in America that only kids make for unhappy kids. Common opinion pegs them as selfish and spoiled, judgmental and lonely, overly adult and much too childish. In other words, they are symbol of everything we don’t like about children in general, while children with siblings are generally thought to be more well-adjusted, considerate and well-behaved.

How nice, then, for common opinion to be firmly debunked. In fact, recent articles appearing in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Psychology Today have taken us down another trajectory entirely, one that posits that only children not only turn into happy, well-adjusted adults, but that people with siblings can often suffer lifelong self-esteem issues that revolve around birth order and favoritism. Either way, it seems, whether or not a person has siblings is not indicative of the kind of success or happiness they will attain as an adult.

Citing Dr. Toni Falbo’s studies of 115 only children conducted from the 1920s to the 1980s, the Wall Street Journal reports that not only did Falbo find that only children were “generally as well-adjusted, intelligent, accomplished and sociable as those with siblings” but in some cases “there are benefits to being an only child, They tend to have stronger vocabularies, do better in school and are closer to their parents.”

Even more fascinating is the way that parents of today’s onlies are seeking to give what child psychologist Carl E. Pickhardt calls “the opportunity to get into the push and shove of sibling relationships, where you just kind of naturally learn there is going to be a give and take and resources have to be shared.” By having weekly onlies gatherings, cutting down on the presents and even sometimes the amount of attention they are giving their kids, parents of onlies are seeking to create a lifestyle in which their child begins to understand they are not the center of the universe.

In counterpoint, a recent article appearing in Psychology Today points out that problems between siblings can be every bit as detrimental to a child as the so-called “only disadvantage.” “Siblings are born to compete for parental attention, and the strategies they use wind up encoded in personality. Small wonder it can take a lifetime to work out sibling relationships,” writes Hara Estroff Marano, going on to say that “parents treat young offspring unequally, giving rise to sibling resentments that can long outlast the parents themselves” and that “we tend to replicate our roles relative to them in work and even love.”

So what’s the fix for an adult sibling-complex? Whether rooted in the fear that mom loved one sibling more in childhood, or the reality that dad left one sibling more in his will, Psychology Today maintains that working through feelings of insecurity due to sibling relationships can free adults up from choosing to be a part of toxic situations just because they feel familiar. For those of us who have spent time with our families just to find ourselves reverting to that twit we were at ages five, eight and twelve (*blush*), this is good news indeed.


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Julia - posted on 02/16/2013




My parents are divorced. I grew up as my moms only. My dad and step had 4, so when I was with them I was basically the oldest of 5. I would come home to my mom and tell her that I was glad to be out of all that craziness with all those people. Don't get me wrong. I'm highly extroverted. I have lots of friends and like to be around people but the sibling rivalry, being asked to help with the little ones all the time, and just the not having your own space and other people always in your stuff was not pleasant. I have fine relationships with the two older kids but the youngest had a 15 year age difference so we have almost nothing in common. And the second youngest was an exceptionally beautiful child and all the attention turned her into a bit of a narcissist (her mom was a bit of a narcissist too so I'm sure that was a contributing factor). All and all I lived both sides and bring an only was certainly better. Plus as an only there were more resources for things like college and so forth so I think that contributed to me being more professionally successful because I had enrichment opportunities and help with college because my mom didn't have to spread her resources out as thinly. My son is an only and will remain as such. I have friends with multiple kids. The ones whose kids are as well behaved as mine and militant and over scheduled. I don't get the sense that they enjoy their kids. Others are like referees just breaking up the fighting and the kids seem attention starved. This is not to say they are bad parents they just have limited resources in money, time, and patience and more people to spread those resources over. I do have a few friends with multiple kids who have significant age differences (more than 6 years and usually more like 10) that seem to have the best of both worlds.

Patricia - posted on 02/05/2013




Oh they are always doing these studies. I don't know what to believe anymore-ha.

Our child is an only and is well adjusted- self confident-quiet-smart- and just overall a real pleasure to be around. Every person I have been around that has multiple kids are quite the opposite of my Daughter. She always gets along better with other only children.

My Husband was stuck in the middle and was pretty much ignored. I had a sister, but she was much older than me so it was like being an only child since she moved out when I was 10.

Amy - posted on 08/16/2010




I think that's insane. My sister and I never got along, well not until she went off to college. I'm so happy and lucky I had a sister because over the years she's been so helpful.

I agree that it does depend on how you are raised. My husband is one of 4 kids and all 4 of them (although they still fight as adults from time to time) have such an amazing friendships that I hope our son and soon to be daughter will have.

[deleted account]

I think it totally depends on the person. I have one sister and don't feel like I'm scarred, I don't feel like I have to compete with her and never had. Whereas I have a friend who is an only child and wishes she had a sibling. She's well-adjusted but she does feel like she missed out on having a brother or sister. I wouldn't say only children are unhappy as adults but some do feel lonely as children if they don't have friends close by.

Jaime - posted on 08/15/2010




I tend to agree with the article...and I'm sure it's a result of my childhood and having been the second-oldest of six children. There is a lot that I can relate to within this study and I have to disagree that it is merely 'junk science'. I'm certain that there are multiple-child families that are closely bonded and enjoy each other's company...but I have to wonder if they are a minority?

[deleted account]

This kinda hits close to home for me, especially now. I'm not exceptionally close with my youngest brother and am pretty much in a silent war with my other brother. He apparently "hates" me and I can honestly not begin to understand what makes him have such strong feeling one way or another because we've never been close but we've never really had any major problems either. I quoted him using the word "hate" because that's what he told our mom a week ago.

Anyhow, I'm curious to see where this debate goes...

Lyndsay - posted on 08/14/2010




lol.. I was the oldest child out of four and I certainly scarred my siblings for life. I once locked my little brother in the laundry room and told him he had to stay there or the werewolves would get him.

[deleted account]

My sister and I fought like cats and dogs growing up. But now we are best friends. We don't feel "threatened" by each other, because we had good parents. They love us for who we are, and we were never compared. I like having a sister and best friend.

But I agree that being an only doesn't make a child selfish or spoiled. Parents do that.

And as far as having a close connection with my sister, I'm sure onlies can have a connection like that with cousins (LaCi) or other people.

We made the decision to have another kid because we wanted to. Not to "give" our daughter a sibling.

LaCi - posted on 08/13/2010




I was essentially an only, I didn't even know I had a siter until I was like 14, my brother was older than me and out of the house (never around for visits really either) by the time I was like 4. I did have 2 cousins I was EXTREMELY close to though, they were/are like my siblings. We were always together. Anyway, I'm happy as an "only" child. No complaints here ;)

Johnny - posted on 08/13/2010




As an only who is/was happy about it, I'd say this is just more junk science, like so many things on family dynamics seem to be. Like PP have said, it's all in how your parents raise you. We haven't decided for certain on whether or not we'll be having a second kid, but this study will in no way be influencing that decision.

Brandy - posted on 08/13/2010




I think it has more to do with how parents raise their kids than how many kids parents have.

I have 2 brothers and we were never worried about favoritism and we were never competitive with each other. We always just got along really, really well. I guess that's kind of weird hey? You always hear about sibling rivalry and we just never had that.

[deleted account]

As with everything I think how you turn out generally is a reflection of how your parents raise you.

That being said I LOVE that I have a little brother (although not so little now - he's a 6 foot odd beanpole - I look up to him and I'm not little :-) and would not have it any other way.

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