5 Common Misconceptions About Only Children

Earlier this week I shared what parents of only children wanted you to know. Today I’m at it again, only this time as the voice of only children. I can do that because I am one.

Every Only I’ve ever met (and yes, we’re a rare breed) has shared in the same frustration I do about the myth of the only child.

As it turns out, we have psychologist Granville Stanley Hall to thank for perpetuating common misconceptions of only children. In the late 19th century, Hall supervised the study, “Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children,” where he described only children as misfits who possess odd behavioral characteristics. He even went so far as to say, “Being an only child is a disease in itself.” Wow, thanks Hall, no really, thank you.

According to TIME Magazine, Toni Falbo, a professor of educational psychology and sociology at the University of Texas at Austin has worked tirelessly to disprove Hall’s findings. As an only child herself and a mother of one, Falbo and a fellow colleague conducted a meta-analysis of over 100 studies of only children that considered everything from personality characteristics to achievement and intelligence. Falbo found that only children were no different than other kids, with one exception – only children, along with firstborns and people who have only one sibling, scored higher in measures relating to intelligence and achievement. Take that, Hall!

While Falbo and teams of psychologists continue the study of only children and birth order characteristics, my Onlies and I will continue fighting the good fight when it comes to dispelling these 5 common misconceptions of only children:

  • Only children are lonely 1 of 5
    Only children are lonely
    Not true. Only children are often better able to self-entertain and remain content in their personal company than children with siblings.
    Image credit: Shutterstock
  • Only children are socially inept 2 of 5
    Only children are socially inept
    If anything, only children are particular with whom they choose to spend their time. According to Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D, "[Only children] prefer the company of a 'family' of a few close friends to being a social butterfly, from being used to the close and satisfying companionship of parents."
    Image credit: Shutterstock
  • Only children are spoiled 3 of 5
    Only children are spoiled
    Singleton status isn't to blame for spoiled behavior, parenting is. Often, only children are less spoiled by parents who have higher standards of appropriate behavior.
    Image credit: Shutterstock
  • Only children get lots of attention 4 of 5
    Only children get lots of attention
    While only children don't have to compete for parental attention, they often feel an attachment so strong to their parents that they feel a sense of deep responsibility for their parents' care, even from a young age. Heavy.
    Image credit: Shutterstock
  • Only children aren’t good at sharing 5 of 5
    Only children aren't good at sharing
    While it's true that only children are less practiced in the art of compromise, Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D suggests, "[Only children tend] to be strong-willed (stubborn and persistent) from being given to and being given into from parents who want to support and empower the child when they responsibly can." With a strong sense of right and wrong, it may not be that only children have trouble sharing, but rather that only children are exhibiting responsibility for their belongings.
    Image credit: Shutterstock

For astonishingly accurate outcomes of the adolescent only child, be sure to check out Psychology Today’s Surviving (Your Child’s) Adolescence. It’s like looking in a mirror, y’all.

Are you an only child?

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