Only children are often considered as lonely, selfish, spoiled and maladjusted individuals. However, according to a recent study of around 2,000 German adults - titled "The End of a Stereotype" - only children are no more likely to be worse off than their peers with siblings. In regard to personality, no differences were found between people with or without siblings in character traits like cooperativeness, extroversion, personal control, autonomy, leadership and maturity.

Actually, only kids tend to have stronger achievement motivation (their level of aspiration, effort and persistence) and personal adjustment (their capacity to adapt to new conditions) than their peers with siblings. This may explain why only kids tend to complete more years of education and engage in more prestigious careers.

Previous research has revealed that only kids tend to score higher on IQ tests and perform better academically than people raised with several siblings or with an older sibling. The mental health of people with and without siblings has also been evaluated. Once again, the findings showed no difference between the two categories in matter of self-esteem, anxiety and behavioral problems, in particular.

It has long and widely been assumed that only kids tend to be socially inept individuals, struggling to make friends. This is not true in reality. Scientists have compared relations and friendships in primary school between only children, first-borns with one sibling and second-borns with one sibling. The results showed that only kids had the same number of friends, and of the same quality, as the kids in the other groups.

Taken together, those studies suggest that having siblings is not determining in making who we are. It may even be preferable not to have siblings since, in contrast to kids with siblings, only kids benefit from their parents' undivided attention and love and material resources. A lack of competition for parental attention can be an advantage.

So only kids, as well as parents of only kids, seem to be doing very well, if not better, than the members of larger families. The number of households with only children increasing around the world, perhaps it's time to stop stigmatising parents who choose such a strategy. They may be very smart.


Picture: Portrait of a Child, by Eastman Johnson (Google Art Project, Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)

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