Approach with Caution: I’m an Only Child

I remember all too well how reciting those words as a child would earn an expression of forlorn pity, or even worse, one of disdain on the faces of most adults. Some would even go so far to offer a sad, “Oh. I’m sorry.”

I wasn’t. I never was a bit sorry; only confused.  Why did not having brothers and sisters make me some kind of freak to be pitied?  I was perfectly happy. Well-meaning people would go so far as to try to convince me I wasn’t. At least I certainly shouldn’t be. But I was destined to bear the cross G. Stanley Hall built for me about the time my grandfather was born by uttering these blasphemous and endlessly quoted words:

“Being an only child is a disease in itself.”

I beg to differ, Mr. Hall. All my life upon disclosure of my siblingless status, a sign was placed around my neck that I didn’t author. It read:

Nobody is perfect, but I don’t think I quite fit into this cubbyhole. Let me tell about my “maladjusted” personality and childhood. I was a quiet child and tended to be shy and introverted. I was very good at entertaining myself and quite content being alone. This fostered a creative depth in me which I am enjoying to this day. I could spend hours with crafts or drawing. I never felt alone. When I wasn’t creating things, I was in our backyard garden or up in the apple tree communing with the birds and the bugs and the green growing things. This fostered a deeper curiosity about life and my place in it. And when I finally grew bored of these things, I played with my friends. Moonlight games of shadow tag were a favorite, or riding bicycles. Upon reflecting as an adult, I can say I’ve always been most comfortable and most at peace when I am alone. But I don’t think I’m any more or less “maladjusted” than any other human being.

Thankfully, in 1987 a meta-analysis was done over 141 studies on 16 personality types. This review effectively and efficiently blew all previous theories about “onlies” into little tiny pieces. The analysis showed that we are no different than anyone else, with only one exception. It showed that only children tended to be slightly more achievement oriented and performed better on test scores. The reason for this was cited to be the advantage of more one-on-one time with the parents. This both was shown to slightly stimulate more learning as well as increase personal accountability on the part of the child. I can vouch for this, but then I am only one “only.”

I think it needs to be taken into consideration that this world is filled with people who share common situations, backgrounds and experiences but equally we share differences. Life requires diversity. Consider the Only Child as just one more cog in the wheel of human diversity. We aren’t maladjusted. We aren’t spoiled. We may as a group share perspectives that are different than those who grew up with siblings, but as with all things, it balances out in the end.

What are your thoughts on Only Children?


3 thoughts on “Approach with Caution: I’m an Only Child

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