The Situationist

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.

* * *

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?

* * *

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.)


80 Responses to “Only-Child Syndrome or Advantage?”

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  2. Krista said

    I’m a 26 year old only and I have to say it’s my way or the highway. I always get my way, it may not be tomorrow or next month but in the long run I always make sure I get my way.

  3. Lauren said

    I am a 23 year old only and have to say that being an only child is not as great as it may seem. It has it’s moments but I would give almost anything to have a sibling. I know people tend to have sibling rivalries, but knowing you have someone from the same parents so close in age to you must be a great thing to have. Once everyone else is gone you still have each other. Being an only child can be lonely and scary. You think about the future and wonder what will happen and who will be there. Especially without a large (or close) extended family. I would never recommend anyone have only one child. If you are thinking of having only one, please reconsider.

  4. Charlotte said

    My husband and I are the parents of an only child. It was not our decision to have only one child, we were unable to conceive for 12 years before we were finally blessed with our son.Our attempts at having more children have failed.We are in our 40’s and are grateful we have one healthy and beautiful boy. So don’t assume the number of children people have was a choice.
    Even before we had our son, people would call me/us “selfish” for not having children (we did not feel it necessary to explain our infertility issues to everyone who seemed to think it was their business or right to know). Now that we have one child we are labelled “selfish” for only having one. How people like to judge.
    We worry ALL THE TIME about our son being alone in the future, as we are older parents and have few extended family members.But what can we do? We are trying to raise our son the best way we know how to by providing every advantage we can afford, lavishing him with love and attention and trying to teach him how to be a caring and independent person. We will always welcome his friends in our home and will even offer to take one or two of his friends on vacation with us, if that is what will make him happy. But we have no control over him being an only child. People should not criticize nor speak of, circumstances of which they have no knowledge

  5. Jeananne said

    To Charlotte,
    I felt compelled to reply because we have so much in common. My husband and I also have 1 child (an almost 9 year old daughter) and we worry all the time about her future. Mostly her being alone and lonely. We are older as well, I’m 47 and my husband is 51, and we have very little extended family and we hardly ever see them. We try to do the same things you are doing, its the best we can do, and we hope for the best. You are not alone. I remind myself that I know many people with siblings, however, for one reason or another the are not in touch. They are alone as well. Keep in mind that those people who are judgmental,
    are that way about many things. So even if you had another child, they would find something else to criticize! Ignore them, tell them its none of their business.

  6. Candice said

    My husband and I are the parents of a five year old “only”. I had a difficult pregnancy with her that included preeclampsia and an abruption, it was undoubtedly the scariest moment in my life. As of today I cannot say what the future holds in her being an only child. I contemplate daily whether or not I’ll have another. She is an amazing child in which I give the credit to God. I think factors in her life have complimented the fact she has such a smart and honest disposition, one being that she has gotten all of the attention of not only my husband and I but her grandparents and all of her aunts and uncles. She has such a happy spirit and when asked about a brother or sister she says she’ll be happy with a new dog.
    I don’t agree or disagree with having none one or a few children, however I do question those who feel necessary to say it is not right to have only one or who label those who do not have a child/children as “selfish”. We are all here on this planet to live and get get through the daily struggles and blessings we call life. I think some are better without children some may do better with one and those who choose to have a few……well God bless us all.
    For the record I am a sibling of three sisters and one brother and I can say there are days I feel lonely and the days I don’t are not because of my siblings……..ultimately my relationship with Christ has been the staple of getting me through all of my hard times. My husband has a sister who is only 15 months older and they have lost both of their parents within the last five years. Considering what my husband has been through he still remains undecided to have another. My advice to those who worry that their “only” will be lonely, try to concentrate where your “only” will be after this short span we call life…..

  7. Nate said

    Have you ever heard the rap song “parents just don’t understand.” well, it’s true and when you are an only child no one understands. The biggest problem of being an only child is the lonlieness. Sure, being an only child has its perks but being an only child myself, I would have rather had a sibling to keep me from feeling isolated

  8. Rajib Ghosh said

    Ok I can’t say how much better it would be if I had siblings because it’s not possible to really know how it would be. But being an only child I can tell you it is a very lonely experience. You get to the point where your upset because your parents thinks they can be your friends if you need to talk about something but it’d be so much better to relate to another sibling.

  9. Mo said

    Just because you have siblings doesn’t mean you’ll have a close relationship, be friends or even like each other. It may just mean that someone will be around to fight with you, pick on you and ignore you. I grew up with two older brothers who usually wanted nothing to do with me and it seems like all we did was fight. We now live thousands of miles away from each other and hardly even speak. So, having a second child to ensure a playmate or confidant for your child is a fantasy. Sure, it happens in some families, but not all.

  10. adriana said

    I’m an only child and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  11. Ella said

    I have to say that being an only child has it’s ups and it’s downs (but then again, what doesn’t?). As heard so often, it could be lonely at times. Generally, though, I only felt like that as a child (and lets face it, I can’t even remember 1/2 of those experiences, anyways). Being in my early 20s now, I realize how wonderful being an only child can be! I have amazing friends, people I consider my brothers and sisters, who are there for me no matter the time nor place. They are my siblings, through and through, and no ammount of distance nor other obstacles can keep them from always being there for me, and vice versa. In my mind, it doesn’t matter that we aren’t related in blood, it goes deeper than that. And, added bonus, when they annoy me (or when I annoy them), we can go to our separate cozy homes and get a much needed break from eachother!
    Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I feel lonely and sad that I don’t have someone other than my parents to confide all of my problems into (because, lets face it, sometimes my parents ARE the problem..haha), but that passes. You learn to make due, and you eventually find someone who can fulfill that role in your life (whether it be a friend or significant other or even a journal). I am extremely attached to my parents, moreso than most others, but I see it as a healthy relationship. I don’t want to be one of those people who hides things from their parents and is not the person that they portray to them. In a way, I think that being an only chld and being so close to my parents has helped me become very aware of who I am, and what I believe in.
    So, advice to all those parents of “onlies” out there (and even to those who have multiple children): It doesn’t matter how many children you have. 1 or 10. Just raise them all to have strong morals and good heads on their shoulders. Love them all equally and unconditionally. Let them know that they EACH mean the world to you and have your full support and trust (within limits). Thats what my and my friends parents did, and we all turned out great (if I do say so myself…)!
    I am proud of who I am, and what I am going to become (I’m working towards my MD). I feel as if all of the attention lavished on me had a lasting and deep impact on helping me develop my need to vigourously pursue my goals (not saying that those with siblings aren’t equally as driven). This is just an observation I have made of my own character. Nevertheless, we all have the potential. All we need is the right upbrining to realize it, which definately varies from individuals!

  12. Carlos said

    While it is true that only-childs receive a higher percentage of their parents overall attention than children with siblings, it does not necessarily mean that they will be any smarter or encouraged to excell. While they may typically be more confident or assertive than their peers because their parents gave them more attention, parenting styles vary and as such having more than one child won’t make a families children any less intelligent. My older brother Had a full ride to UVA and is now studying at Harvard Law. Maybe it was the fact that he was older that made him succeed even though he had a younger brother, but as we were only four years apart, it would not have made much of a memorable difference in growth as a person. Our parents still emphasized the importance of hard work and studying, which may be the only reason why reason why we succeeded, but they were both from families of four children and they still excelled in their studies themselves. SO basically, it’s a hasty leap to say that only childs are as a whole smarter than children with siblings because it depends on the way your parents reaised you, and there are certainly only-childs who were not raised to with an emphasis on their studies and might be at a disadvantage to other peers. I think this article does have some valid points, but it is definitely an over generalization.

  13. Sierra said

    I’m a 13 year old only child.

    I have to say that I enjoy it very much. Being an only child can get rather lonely sometimes, but all of my friends have siblings and it looks difficult. I know some sibling relationships are strong and great but not always and it gives me the chance to strive harder to be a better/closer friend to my friends because I know I’ll have the same kind of support. My parents have taught me to be independent in thinking and being. I love how close I’m able to be with them as well as the freedom to learn from my past experiences and mistakes. I am so incredibly lucky to be an only child in my eyes.

    Yes, I get a little down sometimes, maybe on a quiet Saturday night when all of my friends are busy and I think that maybe, just maybe if I had a sibling to hang out with my day would be more interesting. But think about it, I never have to share (I’m not trying to sound selfsih, I’m just not used to sharing), I never have to base my feelings of self-worth on camparing myself to other siblings and I have my parents undivided attention.

    I’m a fairly intelligent person and I think that it’s due to my parents because we have the time to sit and talk and I never have to fight for the conversation. I have grown up around tons of adults and are more prepared for situations and have the social grace that I feel my friends sometimes lack. (None of them, absolutely none, are onlies) I’m not trying to praise myself non-stop but I do feel that the benefits of being an only child are very awesome :]


  14. Laura said

    The most important reason to have a child is to bring one (or several), into a family who is stable and loves them. We had one by choice, and although I thought about two, we both changed our minds. Fortunatley folks did not give me a hard time, for my answer is always the same. “people should only have children when they want them.”

    How do you refute that?

    I didn’t want another, not even a little and I strongly believe parents should never “give” their child a sibling, rather they should have a child because they want one to join their healthy, stable family. No other reason. Our daughter was wanted more than life itself and loved by so many in our lives.

    I would not manufacture a sibling for her sake, and then be unhappy because I met a societal expecatation. How odd. She never begged for one, but had she it would not have mattered. You don’t “insert a sibling” for the wrong reasons.

    Happiness is about balance for everyone in the family, not about “inserting a sibling” into the family against the wishes of the parents. If you want loads of kids, I say rock on, have as many as you want, just please do it for the right reasons, not to fill a “void” “give a sibling” or “fix a marriage”. Kids deserve better. They deserve to be wanted not to “fill a need” or a meet society’s expectations that more than one is “ideal”. ALL studies refute that onlies are deficient in ANY manner, in fact they are statsitically more likely to be more intelligent.

    Break the’s time.



  15. meg said

    I have my daughter when I was 18, she is now 14 and I am 33. I am finally financially stable enough to have another child, but am unsure if it is a good idea. My daughter is a very happy, healthy, well adjusted person. She does very well in school. Has tons of friends. Has tried many different sports and excells at soccer and swimming. She is in all accelerated classes, and like I said has many friends from all the different ‘clicks’ in highschool. Our family is very close, and we have enjoyed spending a lot of time together through the years.

    My daughter used to ask for a sibling when she was around five years old, but at the time it was not financially possible. She never seemed like a lonely child and when I speak to her now and ask if she would like a sibling, she says she doesn’t want one! She says that would be like buying another pizza when you’re already full. She did say however, that I could have another child when she moves out so that her kids can have an aunt, and so that she can be an aunt. I know this is not a decision to leave up to my daughter, but I did want her input as I’m afraid I’ll disrupt our happy little family if we have another…but at the same time I’m afraid we will really regret it if we don’t!

    I wonder if there are other people out there in a similar situation.

    ps…even though I had my daughter young, I was very mature for 18 and very ready to be a mother. the only hard part about having my daughter young has been that society does not approve of such things…and the other younger mom’s I knew weren’t really ready to be mom’s and always just wanted to go out and leave their kids with the grandparents. I never did this..the older Mom’s kind of shunned me because I looked very young (I think it’s just my genetics) and the younger Mom’s I knew of were not the kind of people I enjoyed hanging around with.

    I’d love to hear from any Mom’s who are in a similar situation! My email address is =)

  16. […] 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 […]

  17. dominque said

    i am an only child and i am very loving ,giving, caring, and i dont mind sharing.i dont see the point of having brothers and sisters because life is hard enough as it is.i really liked being alone and i still do as an adult

  18. lisa said

    every only child i have ever known is very lonely and has struggled to find a mate. the parents of these children did them a great dis-service. i fully understand infertility problems, but there are other ways to give your child all the love,companionship, and sense of belonging they deserve–it,s called ADOPTION! if you have an only child, give them someone who they need, and who needs them also. i have three biological children, who were all from infertility problems and pregnancy at high risk. but i also adopted my youngest-fourth child. i have many friends and family with one child who tell me how blessed i am. i absolutely am blessed and so are my children who,when i am gone will always have a large family. i find comfort in knowing that. contrary to what most believe about adoption, you don’t have to spend five figures and go half way around the world to find a child. all counties in the u.s. have children up for adoption and the cost is only the court fees. i don,t empathy for couples anymore who pull the”they’re the only child because we couldn’t have any others.’ boo-hoo!” well, i feel that you, the parents are the ones being selfish. you can’t find it in yourselves to love another who is not blood. i will tell you that the day our adoption was final, was most beautiful and truly the same excitement and feeling that all was right in the world. the same way myself and my husband felt the days i delivered my other children. for people who desperately want children, i tell you , your children are out there. go get them. don’t let your child be alone.

  19. Kayleigh said

    I am an only child and wouldn’t have it any other way. I am more mature than my peers and very confident. (I needed to be or else I would have had no one to keep me company :)) It’s also good because I am never bored when I am on my own. There are some cons about being an only child such as not liking people messing with your belongings, not having a close connection to someone such as with siblings, and you tend to be more bossy, wanting your way. I have learned to take very very good care of my things (because once it’s broken, brother or sister won’t have the same thing I can play with.) I also got the un divided love and attention of my parents. I am 13 and still do.

  20. Roni said

    I am 29 and am an only child. I currently have one son who is about to turn a year old. I am in the process of deciding whether or not we have another or stop at one. However, I would like to defend the only child route because I was VERY happy as an only child. I have a great relationship with my parents and have great friends and don’t feel like I “missed out” by not having siblings. I have been successful in life thus far, obtaining a masters degree with a 4.0 average, and feel that it was in part because my parents were able to give me the time and attention I needed. I think not always having a playmate 24/7 taught me to be imaginative, creative, and independent. Therefore, I think parents of onlies should relieve themselves of any guilt others might try to thrust upon you.

    Also, to comment on Lisa’s point above about adoption, why do we all have to be so critical of other people’s choices? Adoption is a fabulous choice. I was an adoption social worker for a number of years and saw how wonderful an experience that can be. However, it is not all roses and not the right choice for everyone. If you adopt an older child, there can be many difficult emotional issues to work with. If you adopt an infant, you have to accept that you had no control over the child’s in utero experience. I worked directly with birth mothers and many times (not all) they made some decisions (drinking, smoking, drugs) that most adoptive families would not have chosen for their child. Therefore, berating couples who have suffered the trauma of infertility by informing them that they need to “just adopt” in order to save their only child from the dire fate of having no siblings is just ridiculous. Everyone has the right to make the decision that is right for them whether it be an only child, multiple children, adoption, or no children.

    For the record, if I decide to have a second, it would be because of the joy of having another child, NOT to insure that my son won’t be lonely or damaged in some way.

  21. Matty K said

    I’m an only and I always talk about myself. I hate it, but I love myself way too much. I need help.

  22. Shanai MB said

    I’m 14 and an only child. When I was younger I thought it was great to be an only child but as I grew older I wished for siblings. Sure I dont have to worry about being compared to brothers or sisters, or fighting over the TV but it gets kinda lonely. As an only child you both gain and loose.

  23. Elizabeth said

    I’m a 21-year-old only and my life has been fine so far. My parents were able to give me a lot of attention when I was younger, they made sure I had a great education and that I had the tools to become successful and independent. They did not, however, spoil me. I’ve had jobs since I was 14 so whenever I wanted money to go out with my friends it had to be money I earned. I was never the girl who got daddy’s credit card.

    I saw a lot of people commented on being lonely as an only-child. For me that was not necessarily the case. I’ve experienced bouts of loneliness, who hasn’t? But it was never overwhelming or unusual, just regular angst. I’m shy but I’m not a social mess or damaged or completely self-absorbed.

    The advice I would give for parents of an only child is not to worry too much. Give your kid an opprotunity to socialize with other kids, enroll them in dance class or summer camp or a crafting class. Teach them to think independently and not to rely on their parents for everything. I know some onlys who are awfully spoiled because they were never made to work for anything but I know kids with siblings who are the same way.

  24. matilda said

    I’m an only child. It’s a blessing. I never feel lonely. I have many close friends but actually I prefer being alone. I was raised to become very independent.

    For sibling, I never want any.

  25. Kim said

    I am an only child and I have to say that I was pretty lonely growing up. However, that probably was more due to the fact that I was raised pretty much with a single parent. My father had passed when I was six years of age. So it was just my mother and me. I always wanted a sibiling around specifically a brother but that was probably b/c of not having a father figure around. But I do feel that I’ve turned out pretty well adjusted. My mother did everything she could to let me experience various activities and give me tons of love and attention. My mother has since passed when I turned 22. So now having my own child age 4 has been a joy but very sad that she doesn’t have any grandparents from my side of the family. My husband and I are now discussing having another child and we are concerned with our ages (I’m 38 he is 40) as well as the financially needs, etc. We want her to have a sibling, however just to have a child so that she has a sibling is not necessarily the right thing to do I don’t think. The thorn in my side is the fact that my daughter will be alone if something were to happen to us. And I can tell you from first hand experience that I so wished that I had a sibling to talk to to go through some of the hard times. I know that she will have friends and they will become her support system as mine have. However, its still not the same and it’s not your family. Given that my parents are gone I really feel it’s hard for people to understand what my concerns are. I actually feel like I’m “thinking too much” about it. I just want to make sure I’m bringing a child into this world for the right reason and not to fill a void of guilt for not having another child so that my daughter can have a sibling and not go through what I go through.

  26. Fenan said

    This is for only children, and parents with an only child. I have 3 siblings: 2 brothers, and a sister. The idea that having a sibling would be better off is not always the case. While it was fun when we were younger, some of my siblings do not even get along. I am 21 years old, and I spent most of my life worrying about my siblings and their lives, health, etc., and was barely able to focus on myself. Sometimes I envy only children because they only have to worry about themselves, and they do not have to worry about their sibiling going to jail, their brother in the hospital, their sister depressed, etc. While some siblings have great relationships, in my family we were always fighting. Plus there was the finandial issues all the time. Sometimes we all could not get what we wanted. Personally, I am thinking of only having one child, because I believe that it will be much better.

  27. Onlychild said

    I can relate to most stories being told about being the only child. I always said I wish I had an older or younger sibling. Someone to play or relate with. Someone to take care of you incase bullies were harrasing you at school. When it came to playing sports I only had the wall as my friend. The wall was there to bounce the ball back to me when I played baseball and soccer. I started catching the bus to school in second grade. My mother gave me the keys to the house and told me to never lose it or else I would be in big trouble! Entering a lonely house I’d sometimes get scared and turn on all the lights and tv’s. Now that I’m 26 my girlfriend tends to blame all of my issues on being the only child and not having a father growing up. After having her point out all my issues, which I never knew I thought I had. The only-child syndrome does exist. Not wanting to share, only thinking about yourself, and being independent are all characteristics that I can relate to.

  28. You see peoples I really feel the sadness inside yous. And I am really sorry to hear all these sad stories. Because I am an only child as well and are growing up with a mental illness mother and a father who had to work 18 hrs a day for our livings. I really feel so sorry for them and really want to do something helpful to make this family less stressful, but my school works are bad and sometimes have a bad attitute towards them everytime something goes wrong. I did try to study more but all the infomations that I take in is just like a piece of straw. When liquid goes in this side it goes out the other side and I just don’t know what to do!

    Please help me if anyone have any ideas? THANK YOU!

  29. Gina said

    I am an adult only child and I can definitely relate to most of these only child comments. Growing up without siblings was definitely extremely difficult especially since I’m the only person in my family who had this experience and I have very few friends who are only children. I really felt like I couldn’t relate to the world and ever positively express my feelings about being an only. Even during the few times I was able to do so, I felt like it was going on dead ears since most people I knew couldn’t relate to similar experiences. It did get very lonely at times and I always wanted a sibling or siblings to keep me company. Even though I’ve grown up with wonderful parents that I know that I can count on to be with me until the end, it would have been nice to share similar experiences with someone close in age to me. Also, as the time goes by, I fear losing my parents and being all alone. Unfortunately, I’m not part of a big and close knit family so my parents are like my whole family to me. I guess all things have their pros and cons however. I’ve learned to ignore some of my sad and fearful feelings of being an only and focus on the positive aspect of it. I’ve had a wonderful life with my parents as I got a lot of the things that I wanted almost all the time and didn’t have to share anything with anyone. I also was fortunate enough to get to go on most vacations with them and probably would have been unable to if I had had siblings. I feel like being an only child has also taught me to enjoy and entertain myself. Of course, that is both positive and negative depending on how you look at it I guess. Although being an only child has had both positive and negative effects on me, I already know that I want children, not just 1 child. I’ve always dreamed of being part of a big, happy family and I plan to do everything in my power to make sure that takes place.

  30. Caroline said

    15 year old only child.

    Many people don’t understand the complexity of being an only.
    My friend, who is a twin and has an older brother, has always had someone to play with them, help them, keep them from being bored to death on road trips.
    I get so much crap for being an only child. Comments like “You don’t understand because you don’t have brothers or sisters” or “You’re spoiled rotten because you’re an only child.” stung like no other verbal insult from my friends.

    I got over the loneliness. I realized, when I was like 8, that I could use my imagination and entertain myself for hours on end.
    The unending boredom of being home alone after school, waiting for my parents to get home was mind-numbing.

    How exactly are only children “selfish”? Isn’t it human nature to be selfish? Why must only’s be pinned with all of the negative aspects of the human psyche? And the “maladjusted” part? What?! I’ve been forced to be around adults my whole life and I get chastised for it? That’s not fair.

  31. Susanne said

    I grew up essentially an only child. By essentially, I mean I have two half-brothers who I didn’t live with and still don’t see more than a few times a year. Instead I had very close friends and still do. They’re like family for me and we’re extremely loyal to each other. I was never lonely. Now, with my own child I’m facing the dilemna as to whether or not we’re going to have another one. Everyone guilts us into thinking that our son needs a sibling in order to have a fullfilling life and we’d be selfish not to give him one. The thing is, my husband and I are so busy, and with his business he’s away and busy a lot, so it’s just me and my son. Also, we love him more than anything else and are happy right now. Any thoughts?

  32. Marie said

    I am an only and the parent of a 16 year old only. As an adult only, I am very happy – I have friends and probably made a special point to keep in touch with people growing up since I didn’t have siblings. I certainly didn’t plan on having only one child, but she seems very happy – I think if you have an only child, you need to make sure they connect with other kids like them, and that they appreciate their advantages and give back to others that don’t have those advantages. There is no reason an only child is less or more spoiled than any other kid – it’s all about parenting.

  33. Mike said

    I know only children who are happy and succesful in buisness and thier personal lives. I know only children who have gone to therapy most of thier lives struggling thru life each day. The same can be said for my myself and the people I know with siblings. There is always a positive and negative view to each circumstance, or life reflects which one we align ourselves with the most often.

  34. Cici said

    I am a 27 yr old only. While I do agree that being an only can be lonely especially when you wish there was someone to guide you when you’re too afraid to ask your parents. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I grew up with a single father and I knew that everything he did was for my well being. I appreciate all his struggle and I know I was always praised for being a well adjusted and responsible little girl. I did have daddy’s credit cards at my disposal by the age of 14, but being responsible for myself I displayed a unbelievable amount of discipline that even many of my peers today can not. I attribute all this to being an only. I never needed to show out in school or otherwise because I had more than enough attention at home, I never had room to be dishonest or not take responsibility for things because there was no one else to blame but myself if something went wrong. I also knew that no matter what, my father just cared that I understood my mistake and learned from it. He respected me as an individual and never lied or talked down to me because I was a child. Although I am particular about my things, I do know how to share (to a certain point of course ;)) and am vary caring towards others and very sensitive to their situations. I am also married to an only child and although our upbringing was very different we are both very independent, intelligent, open to change, and unafraid of being ourselves around others, and expect others to take responsibility for their actions. I think that is the most important aspect one can get about being an only. You never have to pretend to be something you’re not because you don’t know any different. We have discussed the prospect of how many children to have and to tell the truth we are both undecided and feel that regardless as to whether we have an only, or multiples, we will be content. You should have as many or as little children as you feel you can handle emotionally and financially because what truly matters is how you raise them. Everything else will fall into place.

  35. Briget said

    I’m another only and I feel the exact same way.
    It’s Christmas, and this is what I’m doing.
    Siblings are not to be taken for granted.

  36. Sheri said

    I suspect that most people tend to idealize whatever they haven’t had. My grandfather died before I was born, so I had a “dream grandfather” in my mind who was wonderful. I had a little brother and I imagined an older sister who could help me through life. There were only the two of us kids in my family, so I imagined how perfect it would be if there had been 4 kids or 8 kids. The thing is, there will be ups and downs with any family situation you can imagine. For everything you gain, there is something else that you lose. That’s why no family is the perfect size.

    I had always planned on having 2 or 3 kids, but life hasn’t quite worked out that way. I have a wonderful 3 year old daughter who is the greatest joy of my life, but it wasn’t always like that. When she was born I had terrible postpartum depression. I know it isn’t guaranteed to happen again, but I’m simply not willing to go through that (or put HER through that) again. I’ve also discovered that my life has a very fine balance right now between my work life and my home life; I don’t believe I could handle raising another child. I think my daughter needs a sane mom more than she needs a brother or sister.

  37. Hands down, IVF and ICSI fertility treatments win by a mile. It’s a big undertaking with all types of responsibility vs a rather solo life with many distractions, especially in the area of paenting, but I’m not sure I’d want to be a part of the future if this aspect is important to you. The in vitro procedure is a much better choice in that case.

  38. KK said

    The striking similarities of many posts are the mentioning of being lonely, self-centreness and self-sufficiency.

    I have 3 children. My daughter, the oldest, dated an “only”. He exhibited the personality characteristics that are foreign to us. Although he managed to work himself to be a lawyer, his EQ is below his achievement. When he comes to my house, he wouldn’t interact with my family. He couldn’t carry a conversation at dinner table. He showed almost no compassion to my other son who has learning disability. I guess he can’t tune in. It seemed to me that his goal to come to my family is to pluck my daughter out of my family to be his OWN companion. He is definitely very goal oriented.

    I tried to understand where he was coming from and hoped my big family equiped with two dogs could provide some wonderful experience for him and cast away that sad and controlled look he carried. No luck! He is already 30.

    Being an only child can get pretty self-absorbed. Having siblings sets a healthier social environment for kids to grow up in. I was unable to conceive for a long time. I adopted my daugther before my two sons were born. I observed how much happier my daughter was after being the only child for 5 years. She always cried when her playmates had to leave.

    I honestly feel that when couples consider having children, for the sake of the children, have at least two, or none at all.

  39. Mandy said

    Wow. Thank you soooo much. I am a parent of an only child and my little one has been asking for a brother. I cannot have any children and feel very blessed to have him. It has been so hard for me and my husband to hear him tell us over and over how he wants a brother and how lonely he is at the age of 6. He has over 25 cousins and we are very close. He always has somewhere to go or a birthday to attend. My older nieces and nephews adore him and would care for him in a heart beat if needed. But reading your response has truly put my heart at ease and has also given me so much perspective. Your parents have obviously done a wonderful job, reading your response truly tells me that. Wishing you the best in your future endeavors.

  40. Phil+ said

    It is very difficult for me right now. My Mother is 91, and disabled. When she passes away, I will have no biological family.
    To compound the matter, I am an Adult Child of An Alcoholic. My Father died an untimely death when I was 17.

    Deep down, I live in fear every day. I thank God I have my church family, which is the Episcopal Church.

    Pray For Me..

  41. Middlechild said

    I am 36 years old. I just want to say, it is worse if your parents put all their attention on your siblings and ignore you. I have 3 siblings, being the 3rd child, i grew up unhappily. My father told everyone how lovely my elder sister was and hide me in the house as I was not as pretty. My mom gave most of her love to my two brothers, of course she still love me but it was so obvious that she put importance on my two brothers first. I cried many many times alone in darkness while i was a kid, I asked my parents many many times do they actually love me, if yes, why do they treat me differently. When I was in my 20’s I was so shy, depressed, didn’t want to meet ppl, low self-esteem and almost committed suicide. I tortured my ex boyfriends who love me just to prove that I was being loved. I finally able to help myself out from this after so long. Ironically, I turn out to be the most caring child of my parents, maybe subconsciously, I still want to tell them they should have loved me more as I am such a good child.
    Now i have only one son, by choice. No one should make other parents feeling guilty for not giving their child a siblings. Parents are selfish only if they give birth to a child but not spending time nor giving love to the child.

    p/s my eldest sis scolded me, slap me, harsh on me while we were kids, but my parents never bothered. Now we have grown up, she is still the same minus the physical abuse. Which is worse? the only child or the pampered first child?

  42. Tanya said

    What is the reasoning that children are lonely? I don’t remember ever playing with my brother, I don’t remember anything until I was maybe 10 years old really. My brother and I never got along, never played together, I had girlfriends and best friends that I spent all of my time with. Even now, we get along better, but only see each other occasionally and I always have to reach out. Having a sibling can be ok, but kids have friends and family and cousins etc. Sports, homework, games, TV, family time, they don’t have to be or feel lonely. Everyone thinks a sibling is going to play with them 24/7? Give me a break. A disservice????????? Wow, so people should have children just b/c? Even if they don’t want more or can afford more or don’t want to adopt. They should do all of that just so a child isn’t alone growing up. Having a child FOR another child is NO reason to have one. You have kids, b/c you want them, one or 4 or 10. Period. A personal choice, kids don’t make that choice, you do.

    I could tell you stories of people that say, being a middle child sucked, being the oldest sucked, they hate their sibling, they were mean, cruel, have stories as adults as never getting along and now barely talk or see their siblings….does it matter overall then?? When does it end….why not have and adopt 20 kids then if it’s the ‘right’ thing to do….really, what is the ‘right’ number of kids to have…2, but what if all boys, no girls, should you try for a girl, what if 3, then one is left out, what if 5, odd number again, there is no right or wrong number.

    People have ZERO right to judge why someone has one child.

  43. Tanya said

    People shouldn’t assume you are spoiled…just b/c you don’t have a sibling ur spoiled?? why? Why should an only get whatever they want…?

    Being alone after school…you can’t watch TV, do homework, watch a movie, read? If you came home with a sibling what would you do? What if you were different ages, by the time someone is 15, they ain’t hanging around their brother or sister, they have their own friends and don’t want to hang with you. They would be out, or in their room etc. By teen years, I don’t know of anyone hanging out with their sibling..they are usually off in their own direction.

    When you are an adult and come home to an empty house…same thing no? You aren’t always going to have someone around every minute of every day when you get older either. Find something to do!

  44. Tanya said

    People aren’t in your shoes…they don’t know how you live your life. Busy, father’s away, you have to look at the big it better to have more kids in the big picture. Do you have time to give them, spend with them. Do your kids want to grow up never seeing their dad, people need to look at everything, age, money, job, security, lifestyle, travel.

    People seem to think no matter what, have at least one more kid…can’t just have one…man i hate that statement!!!!!!!!!!!! why and who the hell are you to say so….so a 45 year old should have a kid, just so their child can have a sibling? what if only one parent works, should you struggle to not have much of a life to just have another child. Make ends meet etc. Just for the sake of having 2 kids…I don’t get it…

  45. Tanya said

    As someone said above, it’s all about parenting. You can’t take your daughter’s b/f as the prime example to all onlies. What are his parents like, maybe it’s their personalities, maybe he is withdrawn, maybe he didn’t have parents to teach him the qualities of empathy and maybe he’s shy,nervous. I’d take a look at his family history first.

    I don’t see why an only is portrayed as self-absorbed. Yes, there is only them to consider most times, but there are children in larger families too that can be pretty petty and self absorbed. you don’t have to be an only child to have that personality trait.

    If you hadn’t had children, I’m sure she would have adapted to her life as it was. She would cry when she left school or her playmates too, not just her brothers.
    I find it disgusting to hear someone say, have two or none at, so one child can’t and shouldn’t enter the world unless the plan is to have another. That child has no right to live or be loved or born and won’t mean as much if a sibling isn’t produced afterwards. Wow. What a sick, cold statement.

    I hope and pray that when you or your children meet an only child, you don’t tell them they shouldn’t be here.

  46. Elizabeth said

    I have a brother and a sister but as they are much older than me, I kind of grew up on my own. My brother left home before I was 3 and then only saw him at extended family functions. My sister was like a second mum to me but also left home when I was quite young. So i didn’t have any siblings to play with, talk to etc etc but that never felt like a problem. One has friends and I also enjoyed playing by myself. As an adult, I still have very little contact with my brother, but my relationship with my sister slowly morphed from parent/child to siblings. I liked growing up alone without my brother and sister and I’ve liked having them later. Best of both!!

  47. glenda said

    like charlotte said. me and my husband also went thru many years of not being able to have children and finally turned to fertility with the success of haveing only one child. we are truly blessed. we started out wanting 4 children together. but as luck would have it only got one. we have been married 20 years and it took more than 13 years to have our one. she is our world. people really need to thing before they talk. not everyone in life has it easy as most to concieve. just wanted to let charlotte know she wasnt alone out there

  48. Daryan said

    Well i personally am a very smart, well-rounded, 15 year-old, only child myself. And while there are times I would really like to have a sibling, if you raise your child properly they will not be “self-centered” or “selfish” as most people say. My dad left my mom when i was 3 and my mom worked very hard just to support us. and although she was so busy and had little experience in motherhood she still took the time from her own life to work with me and care for me and instill the proper values in me and I have turned out as a great and bright-futured child. I am if anything very unselfish and actually tend to care for my friends so much that i neglect even my own health.
    Raising an only child is not “selfish”, some people are not able to have any children or were only able to have one so atleast ask them about their situation before you insult them.
    Maybe you had siblings and didn’t like it or maybe you were an only child and think its better that way, but if you weren’t raised as an only child how could you possibly truely know how the children felt about their lives and how dare you try to judge these people for this.

    As long as the parents instill the proper values in there children, whether with 1 child or with 10, the children will turn out with atleast good morals.

    I just thought someone might want to see what an only child who is STILL a child might think. Because face it, you don’t think the same now as you did when you were a child. Thank You.

  49. Lynda said

    I am the parent of an only child. A 21 year old son. We wanted an only child, we wanted a son. So when he was born we were the happiest parents ever! He was a beautiful (now handsome) happy child who was a joy. About six years ago my husband began having serious health problems that has since left him totally disabled, our son was 15. We thought we were protecting our son from much of the life changing events, but apparently not. He is now unhappy, not able to commit to anything (school, jobs, etc). He blames everything on us and the fact that he’s an only child. Having two children or more when we were faced with losing everything is unimaginable, it was hard with just the three of us.

    What do I do now to help by 21 year old. He says he is not an adult but still a child. He wants to be treated like an adult but live with the freedom of a child.

    Maybe this is the wrong forum, but I need insight on how only children in similar situations were able to move forward.


  50. jennifer phillips said

    not only am i the only child but i’m the ONLY GRANDCHILD ON BOTH SIDES!!!

    hands down, 100 and up percent, agree that parents should reconcider the only child route!!

  51. Jenn said

    I’m an only child in my late 30s. Honeslty, being an only has taught me so much — independence, courage, strength.

    Yes, I do always get my way, but it’s not as simple as just snapping my fingers. I’ve learned how to make things happen when I want them. Maybe not today…maybe not tomorrow…but if I want something, I ALWAYS get it.

    The only thing that I can say has hurt me about being an only child is now that my mother has passed away…it’s very hard. She was a single mom, and our worlds did revolve around each other. This is the worst part.

    But lonliness, selfishness, sibling angst…I’ve never had any of that. And I can honestly say that I’ve done well for myself. All BY MYSELF.

  52. Jean said

    I am 40 and an only child. As I look back, I had the typical perks that onlys get, such as one-on-one conversation anytime I wanted with my parents, gifts, attention, praise, the spotlight, achievement, hanging out with adults at parties, etc. Now, I realize some of the deficiencies. Somehow, I lack some kind of foundation of self-love and strength. Since I did not have sibbings, I was socially awkward in grade school. When someone teased me, I got upset. In my world of onliness and mainly being around adults, I was not used to impoliteness and could not handle it. I believe that perhaps if I had sibbings around to tease and to be teased, I might have developed a tougher skin. As a result of being beaten down by peers and bullies during those tender years of growing up, it has followed me and haunted me to this day. Even so that it has affected my psychy enough that I have had to have therapy. My parents said that due to their jobs (or my mother’s job) as a teacher without maternity leaves in the early 1970s, she was told by her principal that if she had another baby, she might not be so lucky to have her job back again. As years went by and policies changed, they became content having an only. It used to bother me when people would say that I was spoiled being an only. My father always told me to respond that I was just spoiled with love.
    I am very close to my parents. They are my rock. We talk a few times a week on the phone. I am basically an independent, but lonely person. I know I lack some socail skills. Now I suffer of bipolar illness and a number of other physical ailments that weigh me down. Living each day can sometimes be a chore. I am grateful that I have a great relationship with my parents, although it worries me abit when I become older myself. I have a husband and two kids, but I hope that I go long before them so they won’t have to deal with me and my health issues. I also hope my kids won’t become bipolar, but as of now they seem to be well-adjusted, happy children.
    My two kids (a boy and a girl–2 years apart), on another note, are interesting to parent. They bicker and tease like lots of other sibs do. I have learned not to intervene at every single bicker, because they need to learn conflict resolution skills. I work with them on that. That will be a great asset for them as they grow. I did not have that. They are close though and love one another. I am grateful that I was able to have them as they are the joys of my life.

  53. Jeff Mueller said

    Here is a video that captures the thoughts of ALL ‘only children’ at one time or another!

  54. Teresa said

    Correct! Not always your choice to have only one child. My mom was an only after all 4 of her brothers died at or near birth. I was an only b/c my mother had severe complications during my birth and had to have a hysterectomy. My child will be an only; however, not due to medical reasons. I have tried and tried to convince my husband that we should have another child (we are able, but in late 30’s) and he is just not willing. For me, having an only is the difference between my child having a father and the father leaving the marriage or resenting another child. I think that would be more traumatic than being an only!

  55. AS said

    I feel exactly the same way. I too am an only child, 24 year old woman. I have a group of very close girlfriends, who all have siblings they are close to. These women, whom I consider to be the people I’m closest to in my life, will always hold their brothers/sisters closer to them. Of course, this is expected, however, from the perspective of an only child, it’s a lonely life to always be second best to your friends when they are first best to you. I find myself jealous not only that they have those relationships with their siblings and I don’t, but also that my friendship, however great it is, cannot compete with their sibling relationship. This may the only child stereotypes in me coming out, but it basically feels crappy to never be #1 in someone’s eyes (except my parent’s).

    Growing up was very lonely, especially when going on family vacations. however, I think being an only child is worse as an adult. Now that real life is starting, I have no one to count on but myself. My friends, who are wonderful, would always help me if I needed it, but I feel like siblings would go to the ends of the earth. Perhaps I’m glorifying them because I never had them, but this is how I’ve always felt.

    My parents, who had me later in their lives, are all I’ve got in terms of family. What worries me the most is how I will cope when they pass away without the support of a sibling. Being an only child is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Even if you think your don’t have the money to have more than 1, just have more than 1. They will have to share clothes, toys, food, etc. But they will have each other for the rest of their lives, and the years of having to share will seem insignificant in the long run.

  56. David said

    I am a 30 year old only child. Up until recently I had never felt that there was a real downside to the experience. I was certainly aware that many other people had wonderful relationships with their siblings, and that a support network like that would be something special. However, I always took the attitude that I couldn’t miss what I never had. Recently though I have started to become aware of some personalty traits which are causing me problems in adult life. I think they relate back either directly or indirectly to being an only child. One of the main issues is a severe difficulty with conflict resolution. I will avoid conflict to the point of torturing myself with unresolved issues. I just don’t know how to deal with it because I never had any siblings to develop those skills with as a child. I also read on another website that sometimes only children have absolutely no concept that you could fight with someone and then make up afterwards. That is exactly how I feel. Once I get into a fight I find it difficult to comprehend that maybe a relationship can go back to how it was before the fight, or maybe even become stronger. My friends that have siblings don’t seem to have as much of a problem with this and I think it is because the have the knowledge that there is someone in there life of a similar age and peer group who they can fall out with many, many times and still know at the end of the day that they are loved and respected. That is very powerful. I assume that if I do something wrong I will never be forgiven and I should just walk away for the good of everybody. I have ruined a number of friendhips and relationships because I expect not be forgiven and so just cut the ties.

  57. Glenn dixon said

    I am a 46 Year Old dad who thought that having one child was enough, my Daughter is almost 10 and desperatelty would like a sibling. I now know that I was a selfish and foolish man. I thought only about myself, when my Wife and I pass away my daughter will be alone, I would give everything I own to have another child but it is too late my wife can no longer conceive. I buy my child everything but it will never be enough to make up for my mistake.Tell your husband if he loves his child think of what they need.

  58. sean said

    Im an only, are’nt there enough humans in the world ? lonely ? nothing that a good dog would’nt fix. I cant believe its even an issue.

  59. postnatal care…

    […]Only-Child Syndrome or Advantage? « The Situationist[…]…

  60. Christina said

    I am a 34 year old female and i was adopted at age five. I was a only child. My childhood was filled with severe abuse and neglect. I was very lonely and to this day I still suffer from anxiety and some depression at times. Both my adoptive parents have passed away and I have no extended family. I married over 10 years ago and my husbands family is the only family I know. The loneliness is overwhelming at times. However, we were finally blessed with a beautiful happy smart baby boy who is now two years old. I am determined to give him EVERYTHING I did not have and to LOVE him unconditionally. We are now asking ourselves if we should have another one. I didn’t want to have another child after 35. I am not sure the correct answer. But I do know that he has shown me what love was.. I never knew love till I had him. He is my family. Thats all I need.

  61. Ali said

    I feel the exact same way. I am 23 and I don’t know any other only children. All of my friends have brothers or sisters they are close too and are good friends with too. I really wish I had that. I am not that close with either side of my family so I don’t even really have any cousins. Holidays e.g. Christmas and vacations can be quite lonely too. When I have an argument with my mother or father I do feel very alone as they tend to side with each other and I just wish I had someone that I could talk to that could relate to me as they would be his/her parents too. its hard. I do worry about the future. I have gotten very upset thinking about what is going to happen when they are gone, who will I have? my family consists of the three of us and when they are no longer here it will be just me. I also feel like its hard to separate myself from them e.g. if one of my parents is out and I want to go out I feel guilty leaving and even though im 23 I feel the need to be in constant contact to let them know what im doing. really wish I had a sibling. Being an only child is really not nice.

  62. Jerry said

    Thanks You !

    You are a true inspiration to me. I brought a baby girl –who is going to be “alonely” age 3/1 now. The betrayal by my family and her father’s family including her own father while living in a foreign country without a family living around has been eating inside out when I think about her future. But know I know she can survive this and do all by her even I (the only person she has) seize to exist.

    Thank You

  63. arriety said

    I am the mother of an “only”6 yearold girl. Today on the way to school is the first time she vocalised wanting a baby sister. “Please can I have a sister, Im desperae for a baby sister I want a baby that I can look after, and not one you adopted one you BORNED”… I don’tknow what to say. I can’t have any more children even though we have tried and I have had a number of mics’s. Personally I’m happy with one… I have a great career and I have a great daughter who i keep busy all the time, is lavished with love affection and fun, but I don’t know how to explain to her that she “ain’t: getting a sibling.

    Many grown up only’s I know are happy, married, fulfilled, grown ups who went on to form great relationships and have kid’s of thier own . They are often high achievers and very funny. So I don’t think being an ONLY is a blight on your life …. and consider this:

    I have a sister and spent the majority of my life competeing , living in her shadow, watching her be adored and supported by our parents whilst I alwyas felt on the outside. I would go so far as to say that despite having a sibling I felt like an ONLY. I felt excluded and left out and always second best. This has blighted my life.

    So being an ONLY adored and much loved child has surely got to be better thn always feeling the underling, the less good, less wanted. My sister and I are closer now but for the psychilogical damage it has caused me during my life I would have quite happily, and indeed prayed for, been an only.

    being an only can be a truly positive thing in feeling valued, self worth, and having a “voice”… see it as a stregnth.

    I don’t know how my daughter’s life will pan out. But I hope that she will face the future with the backbone of enormous love and value behind her, tat she forms close relationships, that she realises that lonliness is an existential sense of being rather than feeling part of a sibling group.

    I hope she forms a close and loving partnership with someone and has a family of her own.

    I truly hope and pray that being an “only” is not something she hold over my head when she grows up as the cause of her problems. I don’t believe it if she does.

    Life deals us the hands we get.. only’s, death, illness, etc etc it’s how we play the hand that counts.

    And for any only’s readig this… please believe me…. HAVING A SIBLING IS NO GUARANTEE OF FEELING A SENSE OF BELONGING KINSHIP OR LOSS OF LONLINESS. Sometimes it can enhance it. x

  64. CD said

    True. Depends on the situation. I wish I was an only child bc as children and adults my sister and I do not get along or speak.

  65. skinycow88 said

    I am an only child as well. I’m glad to see that you feel the same way I do. I get soooo sick and tired of people telling that i’m spoiled and selfish. And that “It might be nice to have whatever you want.” They don’t have the connection I have with my parents. They don’t see/understand what my parents gave up so I could I have nice things.They also don’t see or realize that being an only child can comes with pressure and loneliness . Parents want to see their child succeed and be happy. My mom is an only child. She didn’t realize the impact of being an only child until her parents past away. Even though she had my dad and myself to help her through the burial arrangements and the loneliness…she was by herself. She didn’t have a sibling to reminisce about growing up. Sometimes I wish I had sister or a brother..but most of time I’m happy that I don’t. I was the only granddaughter on my dads side out of 10 boys. I agree with you Lauren. I tell my friends all the time to have more than one child.

  66. skinycow88 said

    Glenn, have you and your wife considered adoption? Or being foster parents? Our lab tech and her husband decided to become foster parents with the intention of keeping the child as their own. the two children that were placed in their home are now their children. Maybe this is something your family would consider.

  67. Robert said

    My father has eight brothers and sisters. He was the only one who cared for his parents when they got old in a regular and meaningful way. The others did nothing. My mother has three siblings: same thing, she was the only one who looked after her mom in her old age. I have friends who have disowned their entire families due to substance and behavioural abuse. Others who have moved far away. I know so many people whose relationships with their siblings is one of pain, guilt, frustration, abuse, deceit, and disappointment – or absent all together.

    And yes, I know others who have wonderful and loving relationships with their brothers and sisters. But simply having them guarantees nothing.

    The same applies to those who are parents. Heaven forbid, but you may have two children and lose one to illness or accident. The same if you have three, four, five children. The world is uncertain and unforgiving.

    As parents, we try to raise our children to be independent while being able to form relationships with others. To be able to thrive in a group, and to be comfortable on their own. This is a duty and challenge regardless of how many kids you have.

    As children, we learn as we become adults that we are responsible for our own happiness, for honesty and meaning in our relationships with others, and that we must come to own our life stories – always a mix of good and bad. This is a duty and challenge regardless of how many siblings you have.

  68. John said

    Only child as a kid = Happy in general with gifts etc. no one to compete with, something to use to poke fun at someone being nasty to you that you get what you want and they don’t.

    Only child as an adult = Miserable and depressed unless you have someone who understands you and you can talk to.

    Personally no one understands, my Dad is also an only child so I think he gets it a bit, but my mother is so oblivious and conduluded. I am a human emotional mirror, if someone is unhappy, I am therefore unhappy. I try to surround myself with happy people but it takes so long for me to express myself that they get fed up with me and they themselves give up trying to be happy. I’m so afraid of expressing myself in case I get judged or embarassed, and there are a lot of inconsiderate judgemental people out there. I thought the world cared more when I was younger with the fairytale fantasy world that gets portrayed to you and then expected to just accept that it’s the opposite.

    Much love to any only child out there, and an honest f*ck you to those who choose to judge and assume the worst instead of trying to understand. Having only one child is selfish and cruel, especially if the parents kid themselves that they know how to raise one.


  69. I am a parent of a 5 year old only son. He has expressed, just once, his desire for me to have a sibling but I am now too old to conceive.

    After pre-eclampsia, and the serious physical illness I suffered in the year after having our son, my husband flat-out refused to consider having a second child. Having a second child was an option, albeit a high risk one to bring that child to term. I sometimes feel guilty, and wonder what it would be like to have a second child, however, we work hard to ensure our son has playmates, especially playmates who are only children themselves, fun weekly classes & playground time, where he can be around other children on a regular basis.

    I have three brothers, one of whom has three children, the others who don’t currently want to have children. My brother & sister-in-law, with three kids, are vocal about how selfish we are for not having another child, and how spoiled and lonely our son will become. This hurts, as they can see how beautifully behaved and empathetic our son is, and they know the risks of another pregnancy for me, yet still they comment.

    Their children have minor health problems that aren’t attended to, despite my brother’s wealth; are in care 5 days a week, for 11 hours a day, for convenience rather than for financial reasons, are ignored or left with friends in favour of weekends of drinking/gaming; are left housebound each weekend and holidays, etc., parenting choices I feel concerned over and I don’t understand – but I choose not to make them feel guilty about this. It does feel unfair that they think they’re within their rights to criticise my son and I for what we can’t control. Being a parent of an only child I sometimes feel like ‘fair game’ to all and sundry.

    Regardless, I feel we’re raising a bright and gentle boy who is considerate of his friends, his cousins and people of all ages.

    As a daughter with three siblings, and two parents who have been in ill health for years, I can assure those who are raising only children that siblings can be a help or a hindrance when a parent is in poor health or of financial need. Regardless of their financial circumstance, my brothers have bot assisted my parents when they retired and struggled with their health and with money. Stroke, cancer, serious accident – my brothers rarely called my parents and none have ever visited when my mother or father have been hospitalised, even when the hospitalisation was for weeks at a time.

    It’s an ongoing struggle for us to financially assist my parents and it’s not helped that two of my brothers, in their 40’s, still drain my parents’ meagre financial resources and continue to borrow money from them to service long periods of voluntary unemployment or overspending. I try to see my brothers, regularly, more for my son’s/my nephews’/my parents’ sake, but they visit me perhaps once in every 5 years – about the same as they visit my parents. Despite this, my parents continue to pander to my brothers whilst they lean on my husband and I. It fosters arguments between my husband and I, and makes me feel burdened and resentful, sometimes, and wishing I had no siblings at all.

    Whenever I feel guilt about having only one child, I think of my own family situation, and the strain my husband and I – and my parents – are under and feel blessed that, whatever problems my son has – they’ll be just his own.

    To the comment that having only one child is “selfish and cruel” – the commentator, and not the object of commentary, characterizes this.

  70. Tricia said

    I am 41. I’m an only child and it is so lonely.
    Growing up I always wished I could have a brother/sister but I had friends and close family around my age. It’s only in the last couple of years that it’s hit me really bad how alone I am. It’s not so much the day to day things or even at holidays I wish I had a sibling. It’s the looking after my parents. My dad has cancer and my mum doesn’t keep to well either. It’s having to deal with watching my dad lying in a hospital bed dying, my mum being ill and not being able to cope and me having to deal with this all by myself. Not being able to have someone who loves them as much as I do to share the burden with.
    The friends who now have their own family are polite, but don’t really know what your going through and the ones that do know what your going through don’t want to be reminded of their past nightmares!
    It’s the hardest and loneliest thing being an only child.

  71. Sarah said


    I am totally with you on this. I am 43 and in the exact same boat as you. I care for my elderly parents aged 71 & 79. My mum is still active, but my dad has the early stages of parkinson’s disease. I have to cope all alone, every day and I am scared, as I have never arranged a funeral before, or even how to go about it (when the time comes). I had failed relationships (I am still single) and I have no kids of my own (I was never maternal.). My friends are all married with kids, and have their own lives. I have no-one to go holidays, cinema, days out etc with (Please readers, don’t say singles holidays as I cannot afford the companies who run them). I would be lost without my PC. It is SO lonely and isolated.

    To readers who say – Get a dog – I was never ‘allowed’ to have ANY pets growing up, despite both my parents growing up with dogs (plus we had a big house/garden and could accommodate a pet). As my parents soul carer, I moved back in with them (as I don’t drive etc) and at 43, I am STILL ‘not allowed’ to have a dog or a pet of my own to care for (except goldfish and that does not interest me) – because it’s THEIR house and mum does not want ‘filthy animals around’ (her words not mine). Even though I am their carer, I have threatened to move out again, but mum makes me feel guilty and I get tears etc, that I ‘hate’ her. (For by, I cannot afford a place of my own anyway).

    I feel my live is over, and it has not even begun. I am happy for those who love being only children, but for me it is a daily living nightmare.

    Sarah Brook, UK

  72. DF said

    Hi everyone I am a 17 year old only child. As an only child, I often find myself different from others and often lonely. My parents are both middle-class workers who commute 1 hour+ to the city to work and my mom hates most of the extended family on my dad’s side while all the extended family on my mom’s side are on the other side of the world. Aside from occasionally hanging out with friends, I usually spend most of my time alone. Because of this, I am very thankful to 1) the internet and 2) my school. If technology and education was non-existent, I can’t even fathom what I would spend my life doing without these 2 things because they are my outlet to the world.

    I do believe being an only child has advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage is more intelligence and motivation while the major disadvantage is a lack of self-control at times and the anger you get when you are rejected by others and smaller amount of social skills. However, I do not feel like I am the best example of an only child because I grew up in other people’s houses (like when my parents were at work before I was at an age when I could stay home by myself) and I was able to experience personally with other people’s problems and feelings even though they were not my siblings (and some weren’t even my friends).

    I do not know what will happen when I grow up, hopefully, I will be successful enough to be able to take care of both of my parents alone and hopefully, I can find a family of my own to help care for my parents because, as you guys posted, taking care of someone all alone can be pretty difficult emotionally.

  73. Soni said

    Hi all, I am 32 yrs and a single child. I have a daughter as well. Neither did I feel my life vacant for not having a sibling, nor do I see any gain in having another child. A second child in nothing more than a waste of time (devote all your love to the one you already have). Also, having one child was necessary to satisfy myself as a ‘mother’ while the second one does not add any extra to my status!!!

  74. Carli said

    I am an only child and have wished since I was a child that it would be different. A lot of people wrote that they felt lonely. While I didn’t have those same feelings (I always had a lot of friends to keep me company), I felt like I missed out on an experience. I never pictured having siblings as all rainbows and sunshine but I would see the dynamics of how siblings interacted and how it was different from interactions with friends. I wish I would have experienced that kind of relationship (whether good or bad). I also can say I strongly feel this made it harder for me when I moved out on my own and started living with people other than my parents (dorm room, apartment roommate, getting married). I could tell right away that I had a difficult time sharing space as this was something I never had to do before. My husband has brothers and sisters and while he is definitely closer with certain siblings then others, I do think he has more well-rounded interpersonal skills and definitely had an easier time with sharing space when we started living together.
    For those who have commented about only having children for themselves, I think you are missing the bigger picture. If having only one child is what you think is best for yourself, your spouse AND your child, great. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with believing having siblings is a good thing for your children and deciding to make that happen. When making decisions, I try as best I can to look at the family unit as a whole, not just what is best for me and my husband.

  75. bbermudez said

    As the only child of my parents, I’ve often thought about my identity as an “only”. As many have already said, I was kind of like the apple of my parents eye, captured all their attention, and whatnot. Most importantly, neither of my parents are doing all that great financially right now, so there’s no spoiling going on over here and also, I can only imagine if there were two of me. I primarily live with my mom so I can’t imagine if I had other siblings; we’d probably be below the poverty level and things would be much worse than what they are. That is the blessing of being an only child.

    With that being said, in my experience, being an only child really is lonely. I’ve always attributed my deep shyness, introverted, and socially awkward personality directly with my only child status. My parents DID sign me up for extracurricular activities when I was younger (which is extremely crucial for the social development of onlys) but I was diagnosed with a hernia that grew the size of a tennis ball in my stomach at the age of 5 and spent a great deal of time in and out of hospitals when other kids were playing and hanging out with each other. I feel having a brother or sister would’ve filled that void of loneliness and lack of social interaction with people around my age.

    To this day, at 17, I have issues socializing with my peers at school and I have to deal with the fact that my social life in elementary school had more buzz than now in high school.

    Being an only child, I also realize that I will never be an aunt (biologically), have nieces or nephews, and my kids won’t have close or direct cousins from my side of the family.

    Being an only child of two parents that conceived me later in life, I’ve already began to feel the burden of caring for them as their health deteriorates. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t want to take care of them, but having siblings to help would definitely take A LOT of weight and stress from my shoulders. I know I will have to take care of them, even if that impacts my plans and things I want to do, I will have to make their crucial medical decisions, and I know that I will eventually see them die, and bury them all by myself. Then I have no one.

    I don’t at all blame my parents seeing as they miscarried 3x to finally have me, later in life at that, and I was pretty much their miracle child. They aren’t selfish at all and I wouldn’t trade my parents for any other.

    However, being an only child f**ked me up. I refuse to bring a child into this world without the intention of eventually giving them siblings. I am unmoved by the notion that raising an only child is a walk in the park, filled with rainbows, and less stress. Being that I lived in the shoes of an only child, it was anything but for me.

  76. Vicky said

    This has been such an interesting blog to read, and I have read every comment! I too am an only child, I am now almost 65 years old. I share so many traits of you all…number one is the space issue. it’s very hard for me to share my space. I have two daughters (now in their 40’s), and I hardly ever let them sleep in my bed with me when they were small. it’s like my bedroom was pretty much off limits to everybody except my husband at the time. I am divorced, and know that if I ever did find another love,( I’m all for intimacy,) but afterwords, I want to sleep alone in my own bed! Both my parents worked outside the home, and i was a latch key kid. We always had a dog, and I swear, that dog took the place of a sibling. That dog was who greeted me after school, and who i was with mostly during summer vacation from school when both my parents worked. I am a huge animal lover, and find that I think I am happier with animals then people. Please don’t get me wrong. My parents were very loving towards me, I wasn’t spoiled, but they pretty much always had my back. I had close friends growing up, a couple of close cousins, wonderful grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Then I got married and had two daughters. One thing I noticed at that point, was how attached at the apron strings I still was with my parents. spoke with my mom daily, and we always were there for sunday dinners and a couple times during the week. My husband then, pretty much went along with it, but did get tired of so much time spent with them. I so enjoyed being with my mom & dad. I can look back now, and say that I always chose my parents over any circumstance in my life, I even chose them over my daughters as in moving to be near my parents after my kids were married. I am glad I did, as little did I know that I would only have 8 years left with my mom, as she unexpectley died at age 76. My mother and dad were married almost 58 years by that time. Dad, never got to make many decisions, so he was at a complete loss on what to do, so I had to make all the decisions about mom’s funeral. at that time, my daughters did help me make decisions. Then I immediately rented my house out and moved in with my dad to take care of him. I had 4 wonderful years with him before he went to heaven to be with mom. That is when I felt the brunt of being an only child. It didn’t bother me that I had to take care of everything, the brunt comes after they are gone!!! lonelyness and depression like nothing I have ever experienced! I am a very extraverted person, always have looked at the cup half full, and make friends extremely easy. To this day, i fight the loneliness and depression every single day. My daughters are in their 40’s, got their own busy lives, and drama going on, they hardly ever call me, and if it wasn’t for 2 of my granddaughters calling me once a week, my girls wouldn’t know if i was dead or alive. I miss my mom and dad so much, and I so wish I had a brother or sister thru my adult life that could have shared the loss of my parents with me, and have a sibling to deal with life after the parents leave. When you are an only child, you truly become an orphan after they die. So, I am trying to make the best of it, I travel in a motorhome full time, with my 3 dogs that give me a reason to get up out of bed every morning. I am trying to make myself happy and make the best of what i have until it’s my time to go be with my parents again!

  77. I can relate to you guyz. It’s good to know there is someone who are experiencing the things that I am going through, I am now on my 19 year old,, I live in the Philippines… my mom was working since when I was on grade school and my father died when I was 10.. I grew up together with my auntie… most of the time Im alone.. eating and playing all by myself that is why I used to be in my room all the time.. I am now on my last semester on college.. I have a terrible problem socializing with other people,, I do not know how to handle myself very well. I have my few friends, and I do not want to be with other people except to them. I do not know how to react in a particular situation… I am selfish and jealous with the people around me,, especially for the girls who are good in socializing,,, I have a boyfriend and we used to fight most of the time,, I am the problem because I am not sweet, and I want what I wanted to happen.. I am stubborn… He loves me so much and I am so afraid that one day he is going to leave me because of my attitudes.. im doing best but its really hard for me to change my self….. what am I gonna do???
    I hope you guyz can help me.. please email me, I need someone who can relate and understand me… GOdbless

    I hope

  78. Vicky said

    I relate very much to you Wendie. But…… me, things will get better. Especially when you do get married and have children. Alot of that selfishness will go away. not completely, lol, but a lot! only children have to work on being less selfish, when you spot your self being that way, just talk to yourself and you will make little steps in that area. If you have trouble socializing, that isn’t necessarily because you are an only child, i spent so much alone time also growing up, but i am very sociable. that could just be your normal way you were born. not everybody is a social butterfly. the most important thing you have to work on is the attitude…it’s my way or the highway thing! I have been through 3 marriages because that has always been my attitude. I am better now, but have realized at 65 years old, that I do better alone with my dogs then if I was to share my life with a man again. I will sound selfish with this next sentence but….I would like to find a man for good companionship, romance, and going out to dinner and movies, seeing different places, then send him on his way every evening to his own home so I can have my space alone in my home with my dogs! yes, i probably need therapy!! but most only children probably feel the same way!

  79. […] da prikažu jedince u negativnom svetlu. Dovoljno je reći da ih je osnivač dečje psihologije, Stenli Hol, pre više od 100 godina nazvao čudacima, dok je za njega biti jedinac „bolest sama po […]

  80. Nick said

    I’m amazed at some of the things I read on this subject.
    If a parent can’t have a second child for whatever reason then so be it but if you can & there’s nothing at all stopping you then do it.
    There is nothing more depressing or devastating than having no siblings.
    It’s very hard to explain but it’s seriously the worst feeling & you even get to the point of getting to know friends better with the intention of claiming one as a sibling just so you can feel a little more normal & have someone to love & fight with & get into trouble with & protect & be there for and vice versa.
    If people reading this are simply unsure if they want more than 1 kid then just do it because being an only child is something you never get over especially if a sibling is something you really want.
    The pain of not having a sibling is very, very, very real.

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