The ‘Negative’ side to being an only child

by on May 10, 2015

in Bernice's Posts

One of the visitor posts on ‘How only child prejudice affects the family’ states significantly that:  There is a negative side to being an only child, but this is not often discussed.”

I whole-heartedly agree. There seems to be a strong wish to overlook some of the shortcomings that can be a result of being brought up as an only child. The writer, very honestly goes on to say:

“I fit all the stereotypes…spoiled, selfish, over-protected. I do not blend in with other people and I do not know how to do things other people do, even basic things like cooking. (What if I burned myself? What if a pot boiled over?)

I think the key element here is being over-protected. Not that, of course, all only children are over-protected. At the other end of the spectrum some are in fact quite neglected. However first children are nearly always more over-protected, for the simple fact that new parents are being a parent for the first time and are inevitably not as self-assured as they are with subsequent children. However the real problem lies if they are unable to move from this position. Having another child is one way whereby a parent begins to feel much more at ease having learned the basics of parenting skills. Although all children are different, having once been through the early stages of parenting, it is much more familiar the second time around. (Sadly much later children can suffer from too little attention or protection!)

But coming back to the only child; over-protectiveness can lead to a lack of trust in a child’s ability to grow up, which is communicated to them and maintains them in a semi-dependency state, as described by the writer. Similarly, this can lead to a fear of the outside world and other people. In my experience people with phobias often suffer from fear of living which is covered by their phobia that often prohibits normal life ensuring that they do not have to take risks in areas where they feel least capable. Hypochondria also can indicate a fear of living, as does a preoccupation with dying.

These are problematic ways to protect ourselves from the unpredictableness of a continually changing world. We must continually change in order to live, as life is never static but constantly in flux. We would like to be able to predict every aspect of our life’s journey in order to feel safe, but we cannot alter the fact, that whilst we want security, life is not secure. We can build edifices around us to give us the illusion of security, but it is not real.

So the only-child who is over protected is not being given a good grounding in managing his or her world and becomes dependent on the parent to keep them safe. The pay-off for the parent is they feel they are needed, which can help them to feel secure. However the only-child will need to learn their own ways of dealing with the unpredictability of the world when they leave the security of home and without the firm foundation of a gradual introduction towards independence.

I also believe overprotectedness can lead to those stereotypical behaviours of being spoilt and selfish. Underlying these labels is often the lack of having had enough interaction with peers or  siblings to help smooth the rough corners of our personalities’. This is the way we learn to co-exist with our peers through interaction. However if the only child who is over protected are often not encouraged to interact with other children, although they may well interact with other adults, who tend to be much more forgiving of precocious behaviours. Whereas peers reflect back aspects of ourselves both good and bad and we learn to negotiate relationships through this. Children who are ‘spared’ this interaction (to protect them) often have an inflated view of themselves, even a grandiosity and potential sense of entitlement.

I will continue this theme in my next post, but the result of some of grandiosity and entitlement can lead as the write sys to a strong wish not to be know as an only child

I absolutely hate being an only child. I also got derogatory remarks from adults and peers. I recall one classmate, every time I saw her she would ask me if I were an only child, as if I were some freak. I usually lie and say I have an older sister.” 

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