Taking note of a previous comment made in response to one of the posts: that the use of only ‘child’ for an ‘adult-only-child’ is rather infantalising, I have decided in this post to use ‘adult-only’ as suggested. However in my experience when the ‘child’ part is taken out, most people do not associate ‘adult-only’ with having no siblings. Rather something quite different! Similarly ‘singleton’, another word to substitute only child, is often understood as someone without a partner rather than some one without siblings. So after this post I will probably revert to only child adult!
Another comment suggested all the people who I have interviewed or have written to me have come from dysfunctional families. Not true – of course many only children are brought up in functional families but that does not mean they will always have a positive view of their only child status. The recent article on One or Three Types of Only Children shows that dysfunction can occur to only children as well as sibling children, the main difference being that as an only you may not be able to observe it so easily.
People who share their stories with me, as an adult-only, often feel their experience has not been understood, or shared. As an only child myself (despite a few remarks suggesting all research on this website is by sibling children) I was aware of both the good parts of being brought up without siblings as well as the not so good. When I first set up this website, virtually all the emails I had were from ‘adult-onlies’ and I still receive a great deal from ‘adult-onlies’. However I am also aware that many of the comments posted are from parents of only children despite the fact there are many websites and blogs etc. available to them which primarily promote the positive only child image. So for them and some other people who seem to find this website ‘too negative’ here are some contented ‘adult-onlies’:
“I wouldn’t trade being an only kid for anything in the world. My parents were both only children, too…..and their deaths, six months apart and being the only, of onlies, has made this easier. I got to do things, be cherished, know my mom and dad in ways that my friends with siblings don’t understand. Onlyhood has concaminant obligations, but their absolutely worth the sense of specialness it bestows….I might be in a minority but I am all for only childhoods….”
“I am a happy only-child. I can’t say I ever longed for siblings. I had a cousin that I grew up with and that was enough for me.”
“I was born to wonderful, loving, happily married parents (who are still together). They chose to have only one child because they enjoyed being able to give all of their love and attention to one child. I think they considered having another child, but decided to take the ‘its not broken , don’t fix it philosophy’. Its been a startling revelation to me that many onlies are onlies because of negative circumstances. I am closer to my parents than most people are at my age but I don’t see this as a negative thing. My husband has learned to accept and may even enjoy the love, attention and support my parents offer us and our daughter – even though he does have to put up with them calling frequently. I do feel a void by not having siblings. I think this carries over into my social relationships, where I give more and expect more than my friends. I have fewer close friends than I would like, have been described as having a strong personality and over sensitive to criticism.”
“I think as an only most of us had our world revolve around our parents like a close knit family group. Most onlies in my experience have been treated very well by their parents, but when we go out into the world gaining independence from our parents we realise that not everyone can be trusted and there a lot of manipulating people out there. We are used to acceptance and trust . I watch my kids bicker, argue and fight. Then get along as if nothing has happened. Their used to it. When I am in a friendship with someone I am cautious because I don’t like confrontation and am fearful that if I anger the person they might not want to be friends.”
What is important to remember is that what a person finds negative or positive is not necessarily the same as another person. One person may experience a lot of attention as loving, whilst another may experience it as suffocating. Similarly what we value in our childhood as an only child may not be valued in the same way by another person. All experience is subjective which is why stories are, I think, a better way of understanding experience than questionnaires which attempt to reduce experience not expand it. How you personally interpret these website stories will depend on your own experience. There are no right or wrongs just a multiplicity of meanings.
No ones’ life is perfect, we all face challenges and problems. However it is how we choose to understand our experience that gives us meaning. We do not choose to be an only child but we can choose how we live with that experience. That does not mean we should ignore the differences in experience, rather we can choose to be more aware of the way we meet the difficulties whilst embracing the challenges we may encounter!