Stigma of the Only Child

I recently read online a fearful parents question of how she can ensure her only child doesn’t become a spoiled rotten, bratty, narcissistic person. As an only child I was offended and horrified! There are absolutely NO studies or proof that these are the qualities of only children. NONE! The studies I found showed higher intelligence levels, better adaptive skills, and normal social skills.

Without fail the minute people find out I have no siblings I receive the, “Ohhhhh, you were spoiled.” The real smart asses say, “Well that explains a lot.” What does that explain exactly? They usually respond with something ridiculous like, “That’s why you’re so opinionated.” I wasn’t aware of this being a trait of only children, specifically, nor do I see that as a negative thing. Yes, as the only child, there were more resources and, therefore, I was well provided for. But I was also taught from an early age about sharing, charity and helping others. I would share my toys with friends because I wanted them to share with me. I began donating to charities before the age of 10. I understood what it meant to help others and I felt it was my duty to do that if I could. That’s just good parenting.

As a child I learned to not only socialize with peers, but adults as well. I was taken to adult social events because I could sit quietly and behave appropriately. I was a great observer. I saw what appropriate adult behavior was so I tried to act like that.

I grew up and chose to work in a helping profession because I care about society and the people that inhabit it. I believe in doing my part to help the environment and sob like crazy at the Sarah McLachlan animal abuse commercials.

The real problem of being an only child is not lack of social skills, loneliness or maladaptive behavior, it is society itself. It’s others prejudging and believing I am a certain way based on nothing but ignorance and stereotyping. It also speaks volumes of the people that choose to have these distorted beliefs. Perhaps they didn’t receive the kind of attention they wanted from their parents. Do they blame the deficiencies in their lives on the fact they had siblings? Do they resent only children for not suffering the way they did?

I constantly hear that as an only child all the love and affection, praise and accolades went to me. Sure, and so did all the expectations, blame, and disappointment. There was a lot of pressure for me to do well, mostly from myself. Who else did I have to pass those expectations and responsibilities to? No one. As an adult, who else has the ability to give my parents grandchildren? No one. Who can I turn to for help and understanding with my aging parent? No one. But I’ve heard so many horror stories from adults with siblings that I’m really Ok being an only. I’ve witnessed battles over who has to take in the ailing parent or what type of care they will receive. Families ripped apart over inheritance and who gets what when a parent passes away. Ultimately, it’s all a craps shoot if you get a good sibling(s) or a nightmare.

My hope is that more people stop making snap judgments based on nothing. Realize that people with siblings are also spoiled rotten, bratty, narcissistic people. The amount of environmental and biological factors that create that type of person are numerous, but being an only child isn’t one of them.


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