If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that my child was doomed because I haven't given her siblings, I'd probably have enough money to adopt at least a dozen more kids. The number of only children in America is on the rise, due in no small part to the fact that it now costs $295,560 to raise a kid to their 18th birthday. But the fact that there are more onlies out there hasn't stopped the myths.
Stereotypes of what it means to grow up without siblings abound, and with an 8-year-old daughter who is brother- and sister-free, I have heard them all. And every single blasted one leaves me sputtering.
Let's just say that if you believe ANYTHING on this list, it's time for you to get educated about onlies!
1. They can't make friends. Actually, a study of middle and high schoolers presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in 2010 found that children without siblings are just as likely to be selected as friends by their classmates as those who grew up with brothers and sisters.
2. They're miserable. Scientists at the Institute for Social and Economic Research shot this one in the foot in 2010. One of their chief bits of evidence? Kids with siblings cited myriad problems with them. Over half of the children surveyed said they had been bullied by a sibling, and one in three said they had been hit, kicked, or pushed on regular occasions. Others complained of name-calling and having their belongings stolen.
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3. They're spoiled. Do I really need a study to say this isn't true? Just look around you at the excess that is the average American child's playroom or bedroom these days. This is not a problem singular to single child households. Also of note? The number of only child families in America rose during the Great Depression ... because parents couldn't AFFORD more kids. So much for that spoiling 'em theory.
4. They're self-centered. Studies of selfishness in kids have shown it has less to do with siblings (or lack thereof) and more to do with the development of the brain over the years. Turns out MOST young kids are selfish, not just onlies.
5. They're accidents. This is one of the rudest myths out there, and one I can debunk pretty easily. My husband and I actively tried for a baby for six months. Just saying.
6. Their parents don't love them. This one goes hand-in-hand with the accident theory. There's an assumption that parents who stop at one are unhappy to be parents at all. This isn't just nonsense (check out the 20 unselfish reasons parents have stopped at one), it's rather ironic consider the next myth.
7. Their parents hover. While there is evidence to prove a benefit of the one-on-one time that it's easier for parents of an only child to bestow on their kids, the helicopter parenting trend is so much bigger than the 1 in 5 families with one kid.
8. They need imaginary friends to keep them company. Studies show 65 percent of ALL kids make up imaginary friends to keep them company (I have a brother, and I'm one of them), and there's no indication that more of them are onlies.
9. They're bossy. My only child is, indeed, a little bossy. But then so is her mother ... a sister of a brother. My husband, on the other hand, is also an only child, and he's extremely passive. Pretty conclusive, I'd say, but you can also consider this: studies have found that the personalities of onlies are "indistinguishable" from their peers'.
10. They mature too quickly. I have heard this one quite a few times from people concerned that my daughter spends much of her time with adults rather than kids her age. Anecdotally, many of the parents of onlines who I've spoken with say the opposite -- because there is no older sibling to introduce them to age inappropriate concepts, they've warned me my daughter could mature more SLOWLY!
11. They can't succeed without their parents. Chelsea Clinton, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Condoleezza Rice, and Frank Sinatra would also disagree with you on that one. Yes, they were all onlies.
What only child myth drives you up the wall?
Image by Jeanne Sager