Have you ever known someone, who grew up as the only child, probably your best friend or spouse?
If you did, you would have noticed the perks they enjoyed at home like not having to share or not having to get into endless fights with siblings. It is, however, very easy to identify the only child. They are usually natural leaders and fiercely independent. Contrary to popular belief that the only child tends to show tendencies of an introvert, current studies reveal that single children socialise more outside their family, even though they miss out on early socialisation with siblings.
Normalising the Only Child
University of Texas Professor, Toni Falbo has worked to reverse stereotypes of the single child since the 70s. Falbo and her co-researcher conducted a massive project in 1988 regarding children and families from all backgrounds. The results of the study determined that only children scored higher in terms of self-confidence and academic achievement.
Payal, 27 and an only child says: “It probably would have been more fun during playtime and less lonely, at home, as a child. However, I wouldn’t be who I am today and achieve all that I have without the constant and undivided attention my parents have given me till date and still continue to.”
Mona, 27, who is the middle child out of three, says, “It was fun and chaotic all at the same time growing up with an older and younger sibling. I always did fight for the attention of my parents, but as we grew up, my siblings and I stuck by and supported each other through the issues and obstacles we faced as independent individuals. I would do it all over again if I had to.”
Both show a high level of appreciation of the relationships they received at home. Studies in the US and China infer that social circles depend on individuals rather than being raised as a single child or otherwise.
The ‘Only Child’ Stereotype - Myth Vs Facts
Being Selfish: The only child is selfish and not familiar with the idea of “sharing is caring” – This myth has been disproved many times as a sharing mentality can be taught even without having siblings.
Genius Child: Being an only child doesn’t make the child smarter in terms of IQ or creativity as compared to those children who grew up with siblings. Being smarter and more creative is reflective on an individual despite their relationships at home and it is not the main contributor.
Spoiled and Unsociable: This is a common misconception as a child’s behaviour and discipline are taught and shaped by parents. According to sociologist Susan Newman “…With or without siblings, so many children are spoiled because parents can't say no to their children.”
What are the advantages of being the only child?
Undivided attention: Nurturing children and providing them with the best is what every parent strives for. Having one child makes it easier for parents to focus and plan their time, energy and resources singularly.
Less Stress: Stress-free parents mean a stress-free home! Once the parents have overcome all the obstacles that come their way while raising a child, it would take a lot more from them to do it all over again a second or third time.
No Sibling Rivalry: A healthy competitive environment is necessary for any child’s development but an unhealthy comparison from an overbearing sibling who shadows their small wins and milestones, can cause a child to have self-esteem issues or less confidence while growing up.
Quality time with parents: The only child is inclined to spend more time with themselves and their parents. This helps them focus more intimately on these relationships.
Less Financial Pressure: As much as attention is undivided, so are the finances when it comes to raising an only child. According to a study done by Economic Times Wealth in 2011, it will cost approximately Rs. 54.75 lakh to raise a child from birth until they are 21 years old in India. An only child means the financial resources in the family will be used in the best interest of the child.
What are the disadvantages of being the only child?
Growing up alone: Although this can be subjective, as kids, it’s always the more the merrier. Growing up with siblings would give room for a child to compete and interact than those who grew up alone in their homes. Only children tend to overcompensate this factor by being a social butterfly.
Parental Pressure: The undivided attention and focus can cause parents to push their child towards being an idealistic high achiever, making it stressful for the child to live up to their expectations.
Sharing Responsibility: As we grow older, having siblings would mean having bonds that are equally strong and supportive. So seeking for help or providing support wouldn’t fall solely on the parents alone. The same is true vice-versa, when it comes to supporting parents, the responsibility can be shared among the siblings while an only child would have to manage it all on their own.
In essence, we live in a progressive age where a child’s development is based on upbringing as opposed to being a single child or living with siblings. Regardless of being in a household with or without a big family, the roads to success and well-being for each child are carved on their own.