Being an Only Child: Burden or Privilege?

Being an Only Child: Burden or Privilege?

Last update: 04 October, 2016

The subject of the only child has unleashed great controversies. Especially in recent years, many couples around the world no longer want to have multiple children. It is true that siblings are a wonderful gift in the life on any human being. Yet, it is also true that mothers and fathers currently have many roles and may not feel able to dedicate the many years it takes to raise multiple children. 

Some time ago it was an undeniable advantage to have a big family. Mothers stayed in the home and took on the bulk of the responsibility of caring for their children. But in the 21st century things are very different. It is clear that most parents must work. Thus, they can only dedicate a part of their time to their children’s upbringing. Sometimes, a very small part.

Now couples are also much less stable, and they have less support from their extended family. It’s common these days for the older sibling to end up raising the younger one. It’s also common that all the children are raised by someone outside of the family. And this person doesn’t always guarantee a good education and upbringing. And, in any case, they will never substitute for the children’s true parents. 

The advantages of being an only child

Without a doubt, being an only child poses great advantages. Although they have a reputation for being selfish and capricious, the truth is that it doesn’t have to be this way. If they are raised well, they will mature and grow in a healthy manner. There are various factors that they have in their favor:

  • An only child receives more attention from their parents. They don’t have to distribute their time and worries among various children. Therefore, they can better perform their job as parents. That special attention almost always gives the only child a greater sense of confidence and higher self-esteem.
  • They tend to have a faster intellectual development. Since an only child interacts mostly with adults, especially during their first years, it is common for them to have a faster linguistic and mental development than other children.
  • People who were an only child are almost always more organized and responsible. Since they don’t live with other children, they will most likely adopt the style of order and work that their parents have. Usually, they know how to  carry out their duties and seek to always have their things organized.
  • Only children know how to adapt to solitude and develop hobbies that require intellectual work. Solitude is only negative when it means a lack of support or comprehension. Instead, it can be very positive when it lets people get to know themselves better and become more independent. It is not uncommon for only children to develop an interest for reading. Or for painting or any other type of activity they can perform by themselves.

The disadvantages of being an only child

Although being an only child allows the parents to provide them with more dedication and a greater economic security, it can bring about some difficulties. Siblings take some of the attention and give way to rivalry, but they also provide a child with valuable lessons in terms of maturity. Thus, these are some of the disadvantages of not having siblings:

  • An only child is, usually, more egocentric. They have a hard time understanding that everyone has their own turn in a game. They don’t get that not everything they do will be celebrated by their parents. Sometimes, it is hard for them to adapt to groups.
  • Sometimes they mature much too quickly. This wouldn’t be negative if it wasn’t for the fact that by maturing so quickly, they also reduce their spontaneity. This leads them to being less joyful. It is hard for them to allow themselves to be “silly.” While adults enjoy this, it might make these children grow up too rigid.
  • They have trouble being generous. For them, it is normal for everyone to deal with their own problems and to resolve their own needs. It is hard for them to share what they have, in terms of material things as well as emotionally. They don’t “open up” to others with ease.
  • Only children can become reserved, because they can’t share their experiences with peers at home. They might trust their parents a great deal, but this will never substitute for the complicity and closeness that one can have with a sibling. That’s why they can become a bit reserved and distant. It is also possible that they will not be skillful at resolving conflicts with others.

Both only children as well as children with siblings can only mature in a healthy manner if they have a good upbringing. In the case of an only child, it is important that parents understand that they must facilitate situations in which their child can share and interact with other youngsters of the same age.


It is also important for the parents to renounce any habit of over-protection or excessive control over them. This way, they will manage to enjoy the advantages of being an only child and reduce the probability of experiencing the disadvantages.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.