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Is it Advantageous to be an 'Only Child'?

Updated on September 29, 2017
Stella Kaye profile image

Stella has an avid interest in physical and mental health and fitness related issues and facts dealing with sound nutritional advice.

An Only Child Loves To Work Alone


The Characteristics Of the Only Child

In terms of independence, the only child can gain a distinct way of thinking that can be advantageous throughout their childhood and once they reach adulthood. Audrey Hepburn's quote: ‘If you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm,’ could easily be the motto of the only child. In their home life - because there is no other child to ask - a coping strategy of dealing with things in their own way evolves during the only child’s formative years; this then becomes a permanent characteristic of their personality which remains useful throughout adult life.The adult who was once an only child will rarely view being alone as a disadvantage or a burden. For them, lack of company is not something to avoid; they never worry about loneliness and know that solace provides quality time for them to be productive. They will use this time alone constructively as they have always been used to solitary pursuits.An only child will be used to mixing with adults during his preschool years and will probably develop a more mature way of thinking much earlier than his contemporaries. Such children are often described as being ‘older than their years. ’An an only child will likely form keen observation skills at an early age and may gain an avid interest in books and literary pursuits as there is plenty of time to devote to reading. He will soon increase his knowledge and become top of his class with no siblings at home to distract him from his studies.The introspective nature of the only child can cause them to be as deeply philosophical as Rodin’s ‘Thinker’. An only child may even talk to himself or have imaginary friends. This is all perfectly harmless and is part of an only child’s emotional development.Eventually, these character traits may influence them to make career choices which provide them with the opportunity to work on their own rather than be part of a team.The only child can often be wild and rebellious and one who is reluctant to fit in with the expectations and needs of others. Computer games and pastimes that allow them to be on their own for long periods will often turn out to be the preferred way to spend their free time. There are disadvantageous to being an only child too; the obvious personality problems that an only child will need to overcome when they mix with other children at school are selfishness and a stubbornness and unwillingness to 'go with the flow' or become a member of a group. They are sometimes quite lacking in the social skills that can only be acquired through mixing with other children. But on the seesaw of life, the advantages of being an only child far outweigh the disadvantages and such children will grow up with the knowledge that being with others is by no means vital to happiness.

Thank Goodness for Computers


The Centre Of Attention

The only child will undoubtedly be the centre of his parents’ attention and although there are many advantages to this, it can also have a downside in that he may develop a selfish streak with no other child at home to share his toys or his parents with.

There are both pros and cons to being an only child but parents can take steps to ensure that the cons do not allow their only children to become lonely children. For instance, if the only child is given board games for Christmas and birthday presents it could mean they end up playing Solitaire if they can’t find anyone to play with!

Take your only child to a playgroup as early as possible and let him visit cousins and children of friends so he is not a loner by the time he starts school.

The main pros of being an only child are as follows:

He will develop a keen sense of independence and learn to figure out things for himself. He will devise his own games and solitary pastimes and have an adventurous spirit. He can be trusted to perform a task on his own and carry out instructions without consulting anyone else first.

His reading level will likely be higher than that of children from larger families by the time he starts school since only children are often bookworms. Reading is the obvious thing to do when there are no other children for an only child to share their time with.

The same can be said of computer skills; the only child will be adept with technology from an early age and become expert at finding things out for himself and can be trusted to work alone and to act on his own initiative.

An only child will likely get the reputation for being a keen observer and will often be more grown up in his attitude.

The main cons of being an only child are as follows:

He may not wish to become involved in group activities with other children and be quite content to be non-participant and just stand on the sidelines and watch. Thus he may be sadly lacking in social skills and be uncomfortable in the presence of other children if the only environment he sees them in is school.

He will perhaps be obstinate and impatient and not like to wait his turn and this may cause him to become unpopular with his peers and his teachers. Interaction with other children will often be difficult for him and he must learn that the world does not revolve around him.

He may be clingy and develop a school phobia and be reluctant to say goodbye to his mother at the school gates each morning.

He could be demanding and bossy purely because he has been used to getting immediate attention at home. Your child should have frequent sleepovers and day trips with other families to counteract this. He may be quite adept at communicating with adults and because of this he may appear older than his years when compared to other children and they may avoid him or think him strange.

Interaction with other children on a regular basis is vital if the only child is to lose the negative traits that he views as normal. Although he may be well ahead with his reading, he may be at a disadvantage in speech patterns and other forms of communication with his own age group, so language development may be hampered.

The lore and language of children is a unique subject in itself and together with his contemporaries and peers, a child builds up a whole world that excludes the adult. An only child may miss out on all this. It’s all very well the parent explaining to him how things were in their own childhood but the world will have moved on since then and for an only child to develop proper social skills there are things he will only learn from children of his own age.

An only child will perhaps find it difficult to work as part of a team and often prefers to perform tasks on his own. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on the situation. In later years it may encourage him to choose career paths in which he can be his own boss or take up jobs that are not dependent on the judgement or participation of others.

Although there appear to be more cons than pros in being an only child it is up to the child’s parent to redress the balance. If you are a parent of an only child, you can easily change the situation for the better so that the up-and-coming generation of only children are given the best possible opportunity to mix with other children and develop the vital social skills they will need throughout their childhood and in later life.

You Can Still Enjoy Good Company At School!


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© 2017 Stella Kaye


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