Child playing

Negative stereotypes about only children abound. Many are sheer myth.

According to Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide, the nuclear family has undergone so many changes that it's time to rethink the pros and cons of stopping at one child. Newman is the Singletons blogger here at PsychologyToday, as well as the author of many books about family.

Though I was a lonely child, I never wanted a sibling. Plenty of those with sibs feel they've been dropped into the wrong family anyway. I think I just needed to learn how to make friends, not an easy task for a shy child whose family moved a lot.

One of the most annoying myths is that only children are inevitably spoiled. They can be, but so can much larger batches of kids. Parents with an unearned sense of entitlement (and money to spare) are more likely to raise kids with the same attitude. They give their kids everything they want, or everything they themselves would like to have had, whereas wise parents teach kids the difference between wants and needs. And they teach them compassion for those with less. Unstinting love doesn't spoil children--whether or not they have siblings.

One thing I had plenty of as an only child, besides love and attention, was quiet time to face down boredom and create a full inner life. Perhaps that's why I became a writer. That's the kind of time all children need, says Newman. In fact, lots of onlies have found great success in life, including many in the arts. This site has a long list (not error-free) of celebrated only children, and here's a shorter list with bios.

BENEFITS OF ALONE TIME

Here are 6 advantages that onlies get to help them in later life:

  • Only children are forced to come up with ways to amuse themselves, and that, in itself, ignites imagination and sparks creativity.
  • They get to focus on and pursue their own interests, and often have extra time to spend on what they enjoy.
  • Onlies learn how to use and manage free time effectively.
  • They become self-sufficient and learn to find solutions on their own.
  • They learn to be comfortable with themselves which can often elevate self-esteem.
  • They avoid sibling rivalry entirely, some of which leaves lifelong scars or uncomfortable or divisive relationships in later life.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Susan K. Perry

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