When most couples today are thinking about kids, they wonder how many they should have. Some people want big families and others would rather have smaller ones. Then there are others that have no clue. They may worry about ‘the only child syndrome”, there are some people that believe it’s true.
The question is ‘what is the only child syndrome? It’s a myth that dates back all the way to the late 1800s. When G. Stanley Hall said being an only child was “a disease all in itself.” Susan Newman, a social psychologist at Rutgers University and the author of the book “Parenting an Only Child” says the myth has been continued because, “People articulate that only children are spoiled, they’re aggressive, they’re bossy, they’re lonely, they’re maladjusted and the list goes on and on and on.” (Only-Child Syndrome or Advantage) But there is no science to prove that the stereotype is true. Newman has said, “There has been hundreds and hundreds of research studies that show that only children are no different from their peers.” (OCSA)
Even though most parents fear that their child will have “the only child syndrome”, there are many positive aspects of having an only child. Children are expensive. According to the department of Labor, for families that make roughly $60,000 a year, each child costs more than $250,000 by the time he or she reaches 18, and that doesn’t include the cost of college (What’s Better: One Child or Siblings?). Children cost their parents roughly $50,000 in just food by the time their 18. ”Twenty percent of the family population is one child,” Susan Newman said. “In the major metropolitan cities, like New York and Los Angeles, that number is thirty percent. People are having children later, which leaves less time for having the second child. Housing is expensive. The divorce rate hovers at fifty percent. Often both parents are working, and child care is a factor.” (WB:OCS)
By being in an only child family, the child can develop better verbal skills and excel in school because they have more time to read than children with siblings. They also tend to have high IQ’s because their parents hold them to such high expectations and have more money to give them for schooling.
Only children usually have good leadership benefits. They are both born first and last so they have both roles that they have to assume. Only children don’t usually take to groups often, but when they do they more that usually will dominate the group in leadership positions (Only Child Versus Multiple Siblings). As an only child they don’t have to worry about sibling rivalries. They don’t have to worry about competing for their parent’s affection. Sibling rivalries may become out of control when a younger, rebellious siblings compete for their parent’s affection. In some instances, sibling rivalries have become fatal when inheritances or other emotional affection come into play (OCVMS).
It’s no fun having a sibling that your parent’s think can do no wrong. The child always has to get compared to this sibling no matter what they do. It would put a strain on the relationship with the sibling and also the relationship with the parents. An only child wouldn’t have to deal with any of that. Only children can grow up to become more independent, that is if their parents haven’t spoiled them by tending to their each and every need (Advantages and Disadvantages of Being an Only Child). They wouldn’t have an older sibling to depend on to help them every step of the way so they would have to fend for themselves.
There may be many advantages of being an only child but there are also some disadvantages. “The Little Emperor Syndrome” is one that comes to mind. The Little Emperor Syndrome is an unintended consequence of China’s one-child policy. The parent gives their love, attention, resources to the one child and the results are that the child becomes spoiled and behaves like a “Little Emperor”. (ADBOC) The child gets used to having everything done for them by their parent so much so that when they live in the real world, they are faced with real problems they may not be able to cope with. They may also lack self-confidence, and may feel lost when they are outside of the shelter that their parent have made for them. This may not always be the case though. It can be overcome with good parenting.
Another big disadvantage of being an only child may be the feeling of loneliness. They wouldn’t have any siblings to talk to and share memories with, or to play with on the weekends. When their parents are no longer around, not having someone to talk to or look up to for any kind of help or support can be a real problem for the child. Furthermore, when their parents are older and need to have someone to take care of them, the only child would have to have all of that responsibility on their shoulders and it could get very overwhelming (ADBOC).
An only child could have a lot of pressure put on them by their parents. Like pressure to keep the family name going, or academic pressures. Also being an only child could mean having your parents watch you like a hawk, which may be quite suffocating and stressful. Having siblings could take some of that pressure off that one child and they could have a more of a stress free life. But again this may not be true in all cases. The only child may be able to handle stress easily or have no stress at all.
Only children have to work twice as hard at making friends. They don’t have the opportunity of learning social skills by having other children in their household. So that means they have to learn all of their social skills in the real world with other children. An only child may be labeled as a “spoiled brat” by others that are jealous of their success. They usually receive more negativity from the world than children who were raised with multiple siblings (OCVMS). They may also be labeled as “loners” because they are used to working on their own on solving problems. A “loner” isn’t usually taken well by society. Only children usually value their privacy and the luxuries of having their personal lives communicated only to trusted groups of individuals (OCVMS).
On the other hand, having multiple siblings can have its advantages, too. Children with siblings learn to negotiate, dominate or submit to other people. They learn to interact with each other at home first rather than with other children. Siblings tend to learn from each other’s mistakes. The first born usually take the role of the “teacher” or the boss in the family. They can teach the younger siblings about the things they did wrong when they were younger and didn’t know themselves. People who must deal with multiple siblings learn to be better leaders. They are taught to cooperate negotiate and in some instances, compete at home (OCVMS). Most likely the oldest sibling is usually the natural born leader. When individuals have siblings they tend to learn early n what their strengths and weaknesses are and they can build their lives accordingly. Negotiating with multiple siblings is usually a big reason so individuals to learn fast what their strength and weaknesses are so they can use them.
Like being an only child, having siblings has its disadvantages too. Having to fight for parent attention and financial support is a big one. Parents who often have to educate multiple kids and enroll them in social activities find themselves in financial strain (OCVMS). So if there is a big age difference between kids, one child may have completely different experience that the other siblings. The blame game is another disadvantage. Younger siblings are usually more rebellious and less successful.
The older sibling is usually the one that takes the heat for the younger sibling’s proclivities or personality traits. Younger male siblings are more likely to become homosexual. In fact, there is a 20% chance that a younger male sibling will become gay (OCVMS). Jealousy is often directed toward the older and usually more successful sibling. The younger siblings may form a group to unseat the older sibling from their “throne.” Younger siblings may be jealous of the older siblings’ money, knowledge, spouse, status, or the time that was spent with their parents before they were born. This happens especially when there is a significant age different between siblings.
Many couples now days have to worry about many different things when they want to become parents. They worry about how many kids they want and financially strains of having children. I come from a family where I am the eldest of four younger siblings. Even though I don’t experience it first hand, I am not one who believes in the only child syndrome.
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