I received this email which I think is very heartfelt and I wanted to post it as so often families with only one child are stereotyped as selfish.  I believe that having one child does not mean a child has a worse upbringing, just a different one. Here is the story and my reply below: Sarah’s story Both my husband and I have siblings, I am the middle of three and my husband is the youngest of four. My husband spent most of his childhood alone – his siblings didn’t want to play with the youngest child and he never got new clothes or shoes, always the hand me downs. As the youngest, he also felt he needed to stay at home with his parents, who had started to struggle financially and felt envious that his siblings had been allowed to leave the home without any guilt. I also argued [...]

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I receive many emails from mothers and sometimes fathers who are not sure whether  to have another child or not, so I thought I would post this recent email from a younger only child adult. Whist ideally no parent gets divorced or looses a partner – leaving them alone with just a child for company. The reality is that it can happen, and will put an extra strain on one child who may not have another person to talk too. This is the ‘role reversal’ the writer speaks about. Having to ‘parent a parent’ can be extremely damaging to adolescent development, particularly when they are the only one to support a parent. This is because the young person cannot get on and develop the ability to psychologically separate from a parent who is relying on them emotionally. This will keep them in a semi-dependent state until the parent is ready [...]

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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 [...]

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Here is an email sharing the experience of going through your parents divorce as an only child and the repercussions which ensue. I personally resonated with similar messages I received as an only – ‘that I was lucky’! not to have a sibling. However I have found that most onlies do not feel particularly lucky having missed out on the rough and tumble of sibling activity or the potential close relationships with a sibling in later life. Particularly as the writer states, dealing with elderly parents can be so much better if there is someone to share the problems and difficulties. As you can read the writer concludes it is far better to have more than one child. I am also aware that this is quite a contentious issue, as there has been a great deal of pressure to make the idea of the one child family the norm. Many [...]

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Returning to the theme in a previous post on narcissism, I thought it would be useful to explore this further, not just about parents of only-child adults, but ourselves as only-children. I have to start by saying I am not a lover of diagnostic titles that pathologies human behaviour. All behaviour is on a spectrum and it is too easy to fall into the trap of thinking you either have a particular diagnosis or you don’t i.e. you are narcissistic or you are not. However it is much truer to ask: Do we all have narcissistic tendencies? and if so, Do only-children have them more than most? As narcissism appears to be at the heart of the negative stereotype of the only child, and part of the so-called ‘only-child syndrome’ I think it is a useful idea to explore. Lets start by looking at what is seen to be narcissistic [...]

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Joanne: I’m married to an only child. He has twin brothers that are 10 years younger than him, and that’s why I consider him an only child. (His parents are still together btw, no separation there) I am an oldest child of eight kids. I read your post about how only children deal with conflict. It was very enlightening and I experience the some of the same issues with my husband. I have been learning more about how he handles conflict since we have been looking for a new house. I have a really hard time getting any kind of resolution or conclusion from our discussions. I usually get very upset because it just seems like he says his piece and then he doesn’t understand my side of the argument. It feels like I can get some kind of closure after an agreement with anyone but my own husband! How [...]

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I think it is always useful to receive emails from non-onlies who have partners who are onlies as it gives us an outsider perspective. This email, from “June”, shows some of the difficulties I have outlined in my series of posts entitled: Are only child adults difficult partners?  some of the aspects that can arise in relationships. In this email the balance of attention and power in partner relationships versus  parent ones are discussed and I would love to hear some view points from people in a similar position. Bernice  I am the partner of an only child who has a very close relationship with his mother. She is divorced from his father and lives alone in another country. He moved away to live with his father (due to better schooling opportunities/ a scholarship) when he was 13 and I think he has felt guilty about this ever since. His mother re-married [...]

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I received this email from ‘Jo’ which I think contrasts very well both the prejudice parents of only children face as well as that of only-children themselves. Jo also describes how the idea of a sibling is so dear to her as well. I am so thankful to find your site! I have often times thought of starting something of my own in order to connect with other “onlies.” I have always hated being the only child. Both of my parents come from large families, and I had many cousins. All of them except one had siblings. Even though I knew I was loved by them, I always felt different, an outsider. Another problem I encountered was the prejudice against only children: As a child I was very sensitive to what others would say. I wanted to fit in. In Kindergarten I made up a story that I had several [...]

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If you are reading this it may be because you are feeling particularly alone this festive season and have googled ‘only child’ or ‘adult only’. My research highlighted that many adult onlies feel most alone at Christmas because they have no siblings or even parents to share it with. For others, who do not have a partner or children, Christmas can feel very lonely. I know after my parents’ died, and I was divorced and both children spent some time with their father over Christmas I often felt quite cut off from the ‘family gatherings’ of other people. I always tried to find others in the same position, to share these times together, and that certainly helps. However it is not always possible, so I am keeping in mind those people who do not have family to be with at this seasonal family time. I also know from my experience [...]

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I thought this was an interesting question put to me in the following email: “Is passive-aggressive and narcissistic behaviour usually common among parents of onlies? Because my parents have been that way all through my marriage, and since I’ve stood up to them they’ve been worse, almost to the point of manipulation. I find myself angry a lot because they just won’t be adults and have the emotional maturity to recognize things could be a lot better. I find myself wondering what I should be thinking and doing- I have trouble thinking for myself, and question if I’m right. It’s tough. Any help or advice would be great.” Tom I considered that it might be useful to respond to these questions. However I would also like to open it to others to give their experience.I suppose my first reaction is no I don’t think this statement “Do parents of only [...]

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