Only Children Are Happier Kids

Jeanne Sager

smiling girl with lemonsThere's nothing like admitting you have an only child to scare the bejesus out of other women. They simultaneously cluck at you like you've failed female kind and pull their kids away from your daughter like she has something contagious.

Ahem, step away from the child. My husband was an only child, and she is his only spawn. She's positively covered in happiness germs. And they're catching!

Oh, sure, the only children you think you know are spoiled little brats incapable of interacting in social situations. But the scientists at the Institute for Social and Economic Research say the sibling-free kids they know are happier than the tots in a multi-breeding family.

They say you can blame your other kids for that: "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."

Kind of puts "but they need a sibling to feel love and friendship" in perspective, doesn't it? Try telling your kid they need someone in their life to beat the snot out of them once a week. It's a hard sell.

Still wondering why we put the brakes on babymaking? I am not an only child. I love my brother as only a sister can, but we are two very different people. With that fact came years of sibling rivalry and unrest. Sharing genes does not instantaneously beget best friendship, and -- sorry conventional wisdom -- time really doesn't heal old wounds. We're both adults now and hardly bosom buddies. I'm not making an extra person on the off chance my daughter might have an extra best friend to grow old with.

On the exceedingly rare occasions our daughter has even brought up the concept of a sibling -- usually when a friend has gained a brother or sister -- we've unwittingly been parroting the results of the aforementioned study. The solo kids were happier not to compete for parents' attention, to have some privacy in their lives.

We put that in her terms. "You know how Alila's brother touches her stuff? Do you want a baby brother who would do that?" or "Remember when Mommy babysat so-and-so? Remember how much time she had to spend with the baby? She couldn't play with you, could she?"

Not surprisingly, she shudders and changes the subject. The fact that she brings it up so rarely, and abandons the idea so quickly, gives credence to the idea that she's pretty happy with her lot in life.

There are benefits to siblings. I'm not going to throw my brother under the bus here. But next time you feel bad for an only child, ask yourself why. Is it because you think they need a sibling or they do?

It could be they're pretty happy with the status quo.


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