Only Child Syndrome: From an Only Child

 “Only Child Syndrome”: the myth that people without siblings are selfish, spoiled, opinionated, and uncompromising. After all, they have no siblings to share, fight, or argue with. “Only children” miss the obligation of dividing their parents’ attention. 

Growing up, I constantly got asked questions such as, Don’t you wish you had siblings? Who do you play with? Other parents made assumptions on my behalf: You must be a spoiled brat! Your parents must give you everything!

Sure, being an only child has its perks, but my life never glowed with privilege because of my single-child status. My home life was normal but not free of dysfunction. My family lived in a small one-level house for most of my childhood. We had a modest Christmas each year but never splurged on one another. 

My parents took care of me. They knew that having more children might stretch them thin financially and emotionally. They worked hard and both were usually busy with one project or another. My parents spent time with me but never idolized my existence. They taught me to be a good kid but never showered me with unceasing praise. 

My parents taught me the value of hard work. They showed me what it meant to work for a living and to work for what you want. I started dog sitting at around the age of twelve to earn extra money for family vacations and my obsession with Harry Potter merchandise. God bless my mom for allowing random dogs to run throughout our house. My parents let me make financial decisions from a young age. My mom might give me $10 to spend at the grocery store and let me choose what to buy with the money. Allowing me to make my own decisions cut out all the unnecessary whining in the snack aisle, I was entertained by my long-awaited Island Princess Barbie. 

I find it difficult to answer the question, Don’t you wish you had siblings? First off, I didn’t have siblings, how was I to know the difference? My family kept animals in the house, a cat and a dog, but the animals lacked the ability to speak back. Imaginary friends filled my playtime, but every kid had one or two of those. 

My imagination seemed to run my world. It crafted new games and storylines and taught me the special skill of independence. Even now, I enjoy time alone. I find myself content with quietness, and stillness; enjoying the beauty of independence. I have my negative qualities. I can be judgemental, outspoken, and stubborn, but everyone has a few qualities they might not mind losing. “Only Child Syndrome” never seemed to be the cause of my ailments. If “Only Child Syndrome” is real, then birth order must also play a large factor in one’s personality. 

Maybe it’s me just being stubborn, but I refuse to believe that only children are cursed from birth. While there are some "only children" I have met who seem to fit the stereotype, I have also met children with siblings who face the same issues. Society shaped a prejudice against only children for the sake of ostracizing those different from “normal” at the time. Even now, studies are showing an increase in married couples choosing to have only one child. You can read this BBC article for more information ( 

Parents are working more hours for less pay. Inflation continues to rise and my generation (Gen-Z) is experiencing a panic over our financial futures. Housing prices are rising but wages are stagnating. College tuition prices soar while our 9-5 desk job doesn’t. Having children, multiple for that matter, is beginning to look like a thing of the past. One or two children is becoming more popular around the world. Now, should every family have only one child because of our bleak future? No, absolutely not. But ostracizing families who choose to have only one child seems hypocritical. Consider their circumstances. Maybe their financial budget won’t allow for multiple children, or maybe, birthing multiple children isn’t feasible. 

I see mothers and families commenting online expressing their fear of having only one child. They fear they are in some way, holding their child back or condemning the child to a friendless life. I’m here to say it won’t. Instead of focusing on the number of children, focus on good parenting. Parenting a child with love, care, kindness, respect, and wisdom is most important. Sometimes children still go astray even after good parenting. Children are human after all, they make their own decisions, but having only one child will not condemn the child to a life of selfishness and hostility. 

Take my word for it - as an only child, I turned out just fine. And if you choose to have only one child, they will be just fine too. 

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