Having Only One Child, Because Angela and I are both only children, and even come from a tribe of them, our family-sized jousting is fascinating. Angela’s mother is an only, as are two of my father’s relatives and one of my mother’s cousins, and two of these cousins have onlies as well. Even if we are all quite regular individuals, others’ reactions to our solitary nation are unaffected.
Humans are herd creatures, and “only” pose a danger to groupthink. It also doesn’t change the reality that, despite our shared singleton experience, my wife and I still disagree. Is it better to have one child or several children?
Those who claim they have no children and those who say they have one, like me, get roughly the same score: 0 to 3%. Parents who have only one child have many of the same what-if concerns that come with never having a child at all, but they also have the extra burden of not providing their child with an ostensibly necessary sibling.
These parents may also be obliged to reveal their ideal family to strangers, such as describing how their ideal family has been hampered by relationship dissolution, reproductive difficulties, a death, a job loss, or other circumstances, to answer the question, “Are you having another?” “Are you concerned that they will be lonely?” “Do they look like tiny princes or princesses?” —stop.
Our pack’s profound, incorrect wisdom teaches us that only children are greedy, maladjusted, hypersensitive, spoilt, aggressive, socially uncomfortable, and entitled, which leads to the questioning. This way of thinking is reinforced by our peers. We claim that only youngsters never received hand-me-downs or learned to share.
Having Only One Child, according to modern research, is abnormally normal.
Aside from having better ties with their parents, studies dating back to the 1980s reveal no discernible differences between singletons and children with siblings. A newer study from China, a country with multiple generations of only-child households (as well as some of the most vehement anti-singleton views I’ve ever encountered—
Singletons do have differences, like lesser levels of tolerance, but they’re also more creative and lateral thinkers, according to the study (for which I visited there to write about the issue). Other studies into brain anatomy discovered only increases in grey matter associated with creativity and imagination, but less grey matter linked to emotional regulation than the norm.
However, when it comes to starting a family, studies aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. We draw on our own family experiences, as well as imaginations weaved into our DNA by our parents and ancestors. Many people believe that a boy and a girl would be ideal.
We also lean on stereotypes that don’t hold up under investigation yet retain their truthfulness.
Susan Newman, the author of The Case for the Only Child and a social psychologist, adds, “It’s really difficult to alter them.” “Think of any ethnic group to which he applies prejudices. You may not even know who taught you that only children are pampered and lonely, but when you learn the facts that they aren’t, you continue to believe what you did, and your views get stronger the more they are challenged.”
So, what do we get right when it comes to only children?
It gets tougher as you get older, I have to confess. I’ve known since I was in my early teens that one day I’ll be caring for my parents. This may be a blessing—no disputes with a sibling over care decisions—or a hardship, depending on your relationship with your parents. Today I’m right in the middle of it.
My mother is in poor physical and emotional condition as a result of my father’s untimely death. Some days, I find myself wishing for a sibling to assist, but I quickly remember that cousins, neighbors, family friends, and Angela have all stepped in.
Having Only One Child, Another disadvantage is that an only kid can easily get overwhelmed by the intensity of family life.
Many siblings feel envious of one sibling who receives all of their parents’ love. That makes me chuckle. When parents argue, it’s very difficult for a youngster who relates to these individuals as near equals, and even in my case, being a confidant and support for each of them, as I learned growing up as an only child in a dysfunctional household.
An only-child family is a triangle, and each member must work hard to ensure that no one is injured, excluded, or preferred. It may be tiring if you get it wrong.