There is often a stigma attached to being an only child: other people immediately assume that because you are the only one, you must have been spoilt and pampered by your doting parents. But this is not necessarily the case and could just as easily apply to those growing up with multiple siblings, so what are the advantages of being an only child?
Ask an only child about their experiences of being raised as the only one and you are likely to receive a wide range of different responses. Some children will describe the pain of a lonely childhood whereas others will recall fond memories of being the recipient of their parents’ undivided love and attention. But although there are undoubtedly some disadvantages to growing up without siblings, what are the advantages of being an only child?
Only children are usually far more self sufficient than children raised with one or more siblings. I am an only child and although I had lots of childhood friends, I was also left to my own devices for large periods of time because my parents were either at work or preoccupied with adult things. Consequently I soon learnt to amuse myself and today, as an adult, I am quite content with my own company.
As an only child, you don’t have to share a bedroom, clothes, toys, or anything! Unlike children with multiple siblings, bicycles are always new and clothes tend not to be well-worn hand-me-downs. You also get to enjoy your toys and games in peace without fear of an annoying younger brother or sister spoiling your fun.
Because an only child is raised in an adult-centric world, they tend to be more comfortable in adult company and develop better social skills as a result. Only children can often appear very confident and more mature as teenagers, although outward appearances can sometimes be deceptive as some only children are actually quite shy and insecure beneath the surface.
Growing up as a much-loved only child of two adoring parents is a great start for any child. Children born into a family with existing siblings rarely have their parents’ undivided attention and therefore have to compete for everything. Being so loved and nurtured can help an only child grow up into a confident and secure adult, although it can also lead to feelings of guilt when a child ends up feeling responsible for their parents’ happiness.
Research has indicated that only children tend to be more driven as adults and have greater levels of self-motivation, which means they are more likely to succeed in their chosen career. This is because parents of only children tend to focus more on their child and are more supportive, but it could also be because only children learn to be more self sufficient as a result of more time spent alone.
Only children never have to experience the pain of being bullied by older siblings—having witnessed at first hand the frequent bullying one of my childhood friends was subjected to by her domineering older brother, I can remember feeling inordinately grateful that I was an only child!