Households with a single child now outnumber those with two (by more than half a million) and make up 46 per cent of all families. An article in the The Daily Mail stated that recent research concluded only children were happier than sibling children: Why an only child is happier than those who have brothers and sisters. Similarly the Observer article: An only child is a happy child claimed, from the same research: that because children with siblings encounter sibling rivalry and reduced parental attention, and worse still sibling bullying, an only child must be happier simply because they do not have a sibling. More recently “The Week” also published a similar article: Are Only Children Happier?
Is this true?
First of all, the research as far as I have read, is based on a large scale survey conducted in Britain by the Economic and Social Research Council. It does not actually state that only children are happier than children with siblings. What it does say is:
“The research also finds that having older siblings is not related to children’s happiness with their family, but having younger siblings in the household is associated with lower levels of satisfaction, and this effect is greater the more younger siblings there are in the household. But relationships with parents are even more important than relationships with siblings. Only 28 per cent of children who quarrel more than once a week with their parents, and don’t discuss important matters with their parents are completely happy with their families.”
I think to jump from this survey to say that ‘the fewer siblings children have, the happier they are, and therefore those with no siblings are even happier is ridiculous!
However clearly there are pros and cons in being an only child as Shil1978 states:
‘Being an only child can be either good or bad, depending on how you perceive it and how you are brought up by your parents.’
Siblings can be problematic but they also offer a great deal of social and emotional opportunities to learn if parents’ are able to role model this themselves – see: So how do siblings affect the family dynamic?
The following pros and cons are taken from numerous blogs and emails I have read. The first group are from people brought up with siblings:-
The advantages are often seen in this way:
- You get all your parents attention
- You do not suffer from sibling rivalry
- You are the favourite so you don’t feel you are less loved/important etc.
- You do not receive sibling bullying
- You have access to all the family resources
- You are in a safe, enclosed, privileged position
- You are probably over indulged
- You seek constant attention
- You are selfish- and put your needs first
- You expect your needs to be instantly gratified
- You fear independence and leaving home
- You cant empathise with others
The interesting point is that the advantages are what most sibling people are envious of in only children and the disadvantages are mostly what the social stereotype contains.
A similar list from my research and emails sent to me from only children is somewhat different but, as Shil1978 says, very much based on you parent’s influence and your own perception.
- You receive all the parental resources
- You get all your parents good attention and ambition
- Everything is focused on you and your needs
- You learn adult social skills early
- You are motivated to succeed
- You are encouraged in all your desires and interests
- You get all your parents bad attention, anxiety and over focus
- You feel responsible for your parents happiness which can translate into both the need to achieve and perfectionism
- You don’t learn to share, and may be perceived as spoilt
- You find children, childish; but as a ‘little adult’ you are neither child nor adult; and consequently may miss out on childhood experiences
- You feel you can only succeed in the direction you parents approve
- You are soley responsible for your parents in old age
- You have no one to share your history with as you get older
I would be happy to hear from any one else who would like to add to these or give their own opinion.