The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘only children’

The Overlooked Normalcy of Only Children

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 23, 2008

Last year, we blogged on the situation of only children.  Below we excerpt a piece by Heidi Stevens of the Chicago Tribune on how stereotypes of only children being not as well adjusted as kids with siblings appears to be untrue.

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But for all their strength in numbers, only children (and their parents) still shoulder a hefty load of stigmas — many dating back to 1896, when psychologist G. Stanley Hall said “being an only child is a disease in itself.” Only 3 percent of Americans think a single-child family is the ideal family size, according to a 2004 Gallup poll.

“The stereotypes are still there,” says Carolyn White, editor of Only Child magazine. “That they’re unable to socialize well or have close friendships or be in relationships that are secure and bonded. That they don’t think of others as well as themselves.”

Never mind that 30 years of research, conducted mostly by social psychologist Toni Falbo, proves the opposite is true.

“In many respects, only children tend to be more well-adjusted,” says White. “They learn to socialize very well because they know that if they don’t, they’re not going to have any pals. They really have to get out there.”

Onlies are usually resourceful, independent, gregarious and extremely driven, White says, and they tend to outperform their peers with siblings on academic achievement tests.

“That extra attention from parents can have a very positive effect,” she says.

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To read the rest of the story, click here.

This post is one in a series tracing the influence of situational influences on the development of children from youth into adolescence. To read other posts on this topic, go to “Role-Playing Helps Adolescent Emotional Learning,” “Jock or Nerd?: Where Do You Sit at the Dinner Table?,” “Biology and Environment Affect Childhood Behavioral Development,” or “Growing up in a Sexualizing Situation.”

Posted in Life, Social Psychology | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Only-Child Syndrome or Advantage?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 19, 2007

Only Child

Words like “selfish” and “self-absorbed” are commonly associated with only children. But are those stereotypes based on any evidence? And might only children actually be better off than those with siblings? JuJu Chang and Sara Holmberg of ABC News examines those questions in an article we have excerpted below.

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The myth of the only child dates back to the late 1800s when G. Stanley Hall, known as the founder of child psychology, called being an only child “a disease in itself.”

Susan Newman, a social psychologist at Rutgers University and the author of “Parenting an Only Child,” says the myth has been perpetuated ever since. “People articulate that only children are spoiled, they’re aggressive, they’re bossy, they’re lonely, they’re maladjusted,” she said. “And the list goes on and on and on.”

But is there any science that makes the stereotype stick? “No,” Newman said. “There have been hundreds and hundreds of research studies that show that only children are no different from their peers.”

In order to find out for ourselves, “20/20″ gathered a group of onlies in New York and asked them whether they thought the stereotype is true.

While a battery of studies shows no difference with onlies when it comes to bossiness or acting spoiled, it turns out there is a significant difference when it comes to intelligence. A landmark 20-year study showed that increased one-on-one parenting produces higher education levels, higher test scores and higher levels of achievement.

What explains that apparent advantage? Newman says, “They have all their parents financial resources to get them extra lessons, to get them SAT training but more critical is the one-on-one time at the dinner table.”

Which means more reading time, more homework time and eventually better test scoresFamily Circus. [A mother] said of her son, “I think we felt as a family that we were able to give him more attention and spend more time together and really focus on him.”

A generation ago, only 10 percent of families had only children. Today that percentage has more than doubled. And it’s no wonder  it costs between $200,000 and $300,000 to raise one child to the age of 17, and that’s not including the cost of college.

“Families have changed,” said Newman. “I actually call the only child the ‘new traditional family.'”

And yet, despite the explosion of families with onlies, a recent poll suggests only 3 percent of Americans believe one is an ideal number. Could it be that the myth of the only child persists?

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This post is one in a series tracing the influence of situational influences on the development of children from youth into adolescence. To read other posts on this topic, go to “Role-Playing Helps Adolescent Emotional Learning,” “Jock or Nerd?: Where Do You Sit at the Dinner Table?,” “Biology and Environment Affect Childhood Behavioral Development,” or “Growing up in a Sexualizing Situation.”

(August 10, 2008 Update:  For a worthwhile Chicago Tribune article summarizing research challenging the myths, stereotypes, and stigmas of the only child, click here.)

Posted in Emotions, Life, Social Psychology | Tagged: , | 78 Comments »

 
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