Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being An Only Child

A single child is usually seen as a loner or a spoilt brat which is not true. Here are some facts that dispel this myth along with the many advantages and disadvantages of being an only child.

By Pamela Daniel

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being An Only Child

Have you ever known someone, who grew up as a single 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. Here are some facts about single children:

8 things everyone should know about only children

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being An Only Child
Leonardo da Vinci was an only child
  • Single children can be more independent and confident than kids who have siblings.
  • Single children are not loners and are not afraid of loneliness.
  • Single children have stronger bonds with their parents.
  • Only children tend to academically outperform their peers.
  • Only children can be wiser for their age.
  • Single children are more likely to be goal oriented and successful.
  • Only children are not selfish and spoiled as widely believed.
  • Only children are less likely to be confrontational as they are not good at managing conflict.

Only child syndrome

Only child syndrome or single child syndrome is a term to describe the perception that children without siblings are introverts, selfish, insecure, bratty and impatient.

Contrary to popular belief that the only child tends to be shy and withdrawn, current studies reveal that single children socialise more outside their family. However, they do miss out on early socialisation with siblings.

Advantages of being a single child

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being An Only Child
A single child has no sibling rivalry to deal with

  • 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: Single children are 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 the age of 21 in India. An only child means the financial resources in the family will be used in the best interest of the child.

Disadvantages of being the only child

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being An Only Child
An only child may have to deal with parental pressure

  • 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 social butterflies.
  • 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 help or providing support wouldn’t fall solely on the parents alone. The same is true vice-versa when it comes to supporting parents as the responsibility can be shared among the siblings. But, an only child would have to manage it all on her own.

Normalising the only child

With an ever-increasing cost of living and fast-evolving lifestyle patterns, a good number of today’s parents prefer having a single child. It has become easier for parents to manage one child, in the nuclear family setup which is the norm nowadays.

University of Texas Professor, Toni Falbo has worked to reverse stereotypes of the single child since the 70s. Falbo and her co-researcher Denise F Polit conducted a research in 1986 among 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 achieved 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

1. Being selfish

Myth: The only child is selfish and not familiar with the idea of “sharing is caring.”

Fact: This myth has been disproved many times as a sharing mentality can be taught even without having siblings.

2. Not a genius

Myth: 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.

Fact: Being smarter and more creative is reflective on an individual despite his/her relationships at home, and it is not the main contributor.

3. Spoiled and unsociable

Myth: This is a common misconception as a child’s behaviour and discipline are taught and shaped by parents.

Fact: 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?

Also read: Beating A Teen’s Single-Child Woes

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 born 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. 

About the author:

Written by Pamela Daniel on 23 October 2017; updated on 7 April 2020

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