Psychologists have long believed that only children are more likely to be parent pleasers, insular, spoilt and oversensitive. It was long believed that the typical nuclear family is best for raising children, that single parents or parents to only children were putting their child at a disadvantage in life.
According to the Office for National Statistics, among married couples, which make up the biggest family type, 40% had a single child. Times are changing, when I was a child there was far less only children, I knew probably a few other ‘onelies’ in my school and I definitely didn’t have other only child friends. However now there are far more single children families through choice, it is less ‘weird’ and lonely to be an only child.
Research shows only children often do better in many areas than children with siblings, they are often more academic and imaginative. Actress Elizabeth Hurley who has a 16 year old son who is an only child stated that only children are “very at ease with themselves, very focused.”.
I am 25 in two weeks and still to this day sometimes day dream/wonder what life would be like to have a brother of sister (as a child I always wished to have an older sister for some reason). It’s weird thinking that I might have had a sibling to annoy or love if my family dynamic was different. Being an only child really was something that shaped my life and made me who I am today, the good and the bad. So I’ve written below some personality traits that I think were an outcome of being an only child:
Unlike a lot of adults, I actually don’t mind being alone. I could easily haul up in my blanket at home and not talk to anyone for a few days, a kind of like the break every now and then.
We have weird imaginations:
Without having a constant playmate in the shape of a sibling, I had to rely on my own brain for my entertainment.. which made my brain a seriously weird and crazy place to be. My Mum said to me recently that she used to listen in on my play time with my Bratz/Lego/Cuddly Toys etc, as she loved to hear the worlds I used to build for my toys and the stories I used to come up with. I still have a playful imagination to this day, in some way I think it’s the reason that I’m drawn to creative hobbies like D&D, drawing, painting and character design.
Being the only child means I am the only way my parents will ever experience many things in life.. their only way to have grandchildren, the only wedding where they can be the mother/father of the bride, having brought up a successful child etc. I’ve struggled a lot with these expectations but surprisingly enough, it wasn’t my parents that made me feel this way. I put so much pressure on myself to be the perfect child and giving my parents all the experiences other’s have, that it actually made me pretty miserable. I always thought, “If I mess this up, there is no other child to be my parent’s saving grace”, which is as ridiculous as it sounds. My parent’s would be lying if they said they didn’t want me to be successful or get married or have children.. but they respect that my happiness is at stake, they’d rather have a happy child than a miserable one.
I had the great pleasure of not only being an only child, but being the only child of a single mother, oh boy. Don’t get me wrong, my mum did a brilliant job and I know I couldn’t have handled even half of what she endured during this time, buuuut I did find her a tad overbearing. I know it came from a good place and it’s sweet how invested she was in my life, but I did/do feel like my life isn’t just mine, it is somewhat shared with my Mum. She has backed off more so now I am an adult, but she still does check up on me when I’m not home for the day.. but I know one day I won’t have this and I will crave to have her text me just once throughout the day.
Craving to be close to other people’s families:
Not having the traditional family setting always made me enjoy being around other families that did. Meeting friend’s siblings and seeing how similar they both are was fascinating, sitting for dinner at a table for more than two people was refreshing and I loved feeling part of a big family, even if it was for only a night. I’m not particularly close to my partner’s family, through no fault of my own or his, it’s just a different situation.. but it took me a long time to come to terms with not being close to his brother and family. Although it does makes me more determined to have a close family setting if I have my own family.
Friends mean a lot to me:
Being sibling-less means having one less person to lean on when the going gets tough or when in the future my parents aren’t around anymore. It’s always a constant worry in the back of my brain, that one day, I won’t have any immediate family left. Having close friends helps those scary realisations, I won’t ever be alone as my friends will always be there as a sort of extended family.
I’m not big on babies and small children:
I honestly think my upbringing made me not very maternal, I was never around a lot of children until I was an older child/early teenager as I had more young cousins by that time. I just don’t have that desire to hold babies and coo at them like other adults my age.
I have a very overactive inner-monologue:
In other words, I talk to myself.. not in a ‘I think I’m going slightly loopy’ kind of way, but when you have spent 80% of your free time without another child around, you need to entertain yourself somehow!
Missing what never existed:
My parents didn’t chose to not have more children, they broke up when I wasn’t even one and then any other chances my parents had to have children with other people didn’t work out.. I won’t go into details, as it’s not my story to tell. But every blue moon a slight wave of sadness washes over me, I miss the siblings that I never had. Having an extensive imagination isn’t always a good thing, I created many pretend siblings and many different scenarios with them, but every time I awake from those dreams and my would be siblings aren’t there is a tad heartbreaking.
Being a tad oversensitive:
It’s no secret that I am very oversensitive and emotional, it’s my gift and my curse. I always have wondered if not growing up without siblings affected my way to take criticism and struggle to stand up for my self, as there was no other children to fight and learn these skills with at home.
We aren’t all selfish brats:
Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t all narcissistic brats. Yes, we did have the full attention of our parent’s but that’s not always a good thing, let me assure you.
Are any of you a single child too? How did it affect you growing up? I’d love to know in the comments!