Your Guide to Only Child Syndrome

Your Guide to Only Child Syndrome

Wondering if only child syndrome is a thing? In this article, we’ll take you through the ins and outs of the solo life. Read on.
In this article 📝

  • What is it like to have an only child?
  • Are there consequences to growing up without siblings?
  • What is only child syndrome?
  • What are the symptoms of only child syndrome?
  • Does being an only child affect mental health?
  • Should I worry about only child syndrome?

What is it like to have an only child?

Becoming a new mama is full of big decisions.

From how to feed them, clothe them, and manage their sleep schedule, this little being comes packaged with a host of new choices to make.

Then there are big-ticket items like how important siblings are for their wellbeing.

And with talk of things like only child syndrome, it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure when it comes to how to approach this issue.

So here’s the scoop: there’s no one way to do this mamahood thing.

And no right and wrong when it comes to making decisions about how big a family you would like to have.

If having one baby feels like the right choice for you, you’re not alone.

More and more people are going down this route.

Research shows that the number of one-child families has doubled in the last few decades — and this trend only appears to be on the rise.

From financial concerns to the worry about climate change, there are many reasons people are choosing to have fewer children.

Are there consequences to growing up without siblings?

You may have heard the many stereotypes about the characteristics of an only child.

Spoiled, insular, selfish — these are just some of the descriptions that have been attached to children without siblings.

But is there any merit to this? Or are these claims founded on false info? Let’s dive in.

First up — what even is only child syndrome? And is it anything worth being concerned about?

What is only child syndrome?

Only child syndrome is based on the idea that having no brothers and sisters may make it difficult for you to develop social skills.

This can mean that you grow up without being able to compromise, share, or take into account the ideas and feelings of others.

So where does this concept come from?

Research on only children that dates back to the 19th century suggested that only children are spoiled and overly sensitive.

In fact, so serious was the case of being an only child that psychologist Stanley Hall referred to it as being “a disease in itself.” (That’s where the idea of only child syndrome comes from.)

But don’t worry, mama. We’ve since debunked this thinking.

More recent research has shown that being an only child actually doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to your social skills and wellbeing.

You can be just as motivated, achieve just as much, and be just as healthy as an only child as you would be with siblings.

The list of famous only children doesn’t lie.

From songbird Adele to actress Natalie Portman to ex-US president Franklin D Roosevelt, the index of accomplished only children is long.

Basically, you don’t need siblings to grow up to be a well-adjusted human, or to be successful in this world.

What are the symptoms of only child syndrome?

Well, because it’s not really a syndrome, it doesn’t actually have symptoms as such.

According to the theories of psychologists of ages past, the attributes of an only child were that they were lonely, antisocial, spoiled, self-absorbed, and downright bossy.

While we now know this not to be true across the board, there are other things about only children that might be.

This study showed that only children are more likely to score well on verbal tests, and were even found to be bigger than children with siblings.

And this study showed that only children may even be more motivated to achieve and better able to adjust to their environments.

Either way, the good news is that being an only child is far from the “syndrome” it was once made out to be.

Does being an only child affect mental health?

So are there any negative mental health impacts of being an only child that should be taken into account? Well, that depends on who you ask.

On the plus side, studies suggest that only children might develop stronger bonds with their parents.

(This doesn’t mean that children with siblings don’t form strong bonds with their parents, but it does imply that there might actually be some benefits to being the only kid in your household.)

One finding is that gender may also have a part to play here.

A parent-child study that explored the world of Chinese only children showed that daughters might benefit more from being only children than sons do when it comes to forming bonds with their parents.

On the other side of the equation, in some situations having a sibling may be really beneficial.

This study showed that in families where there is a lot of conflict, having a sibling may provide much-needed support in difficult situations.

And now the plot thickens.

If you do have siblings, where you are born in the family might have an impact on your relationships and experience of the world.

This idea dates back to the 20th-century work of researcher Alfred Adler, who examined the effects of birth order when it comes to how your personality is shaped.

(He used the term “dethroned” to talk about the effects of a child of a new baby arriving in the family.)

Basically, he proposed, the dynamics you learn in your family from a very young age can have a real impact on your social, intellectual, and even physical development.

Following Adler’s work, more recent research suggests that where you are born in your family can have all sorts of implications on your life, from your economic success to your skillset to your health.

So does that mean that being born first, second, tenth, or as the only child in your family provides the map for your life to come? Well, not necessarily.

There’s also recent research that tells us that where you’re born in your family, and whether you’re an only child, is not significant at all when it comes to personality development.

Confusing, we know.

Should I worry about only child syndrome?

You do your family the way you want to.

Our relationships with our siblings — if we have siblings — feed into our mental and physical wellbeing.

But so do so many other things.

While our early social experiences help shape us, ultimately there are a huge number of factors that go into our mental health and general wellbeing.

Some of them we are born with, and some of them have to do with our environments.

When it comes to figuring out how you want to shape your future, there’s no “right” way that will work for everyone.

Doing your research is important — but so is trusting your instincts.

And if you want to bounce ideas around with other mamas, join us on Peanut. We’re having the conversation.

All the best, mama.

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