Only child families are the fastest growing families in this country and in most Western European countries. The percentage of women, who have one child, has more than doubled in the past 20 years – up from ten per cent to over 23 per cent.
The reasons for this are many and varied. Women are choosing to have kids later on in life and are therefore limited in the number that they can physically have. Others see the one child option as a lifestyle choice, while others may have seen their marriage break down and have chosen not to have any more children.
If you’re a parent of an only child, and worry that they’re alone or lonely, read on…..only children actually experience many benefits of having no siblings!
For a start, only children usually spend more time with adults and are therefore inclined to grow up more quickly. They also tend to be more self-sufficient than their peers and often find children of their own age a bit silly. This can make it harder to join in, so some ‘onlies’ are happier entertaining themselves, perhaps with an imaginary friend or the family pet for company. When they do form friendships, however, they tend to be lasting relationships since there are no competing demands from siblings.
When it comes to intelligence, only children generally score slightly higher on measures of intelligence. Researchers believe that this is primarily due to parents having more time to provide a more stimulating environment.
Only children also tend to enjoy a higher level of achievement – both academic and non-academic. This may be as a result of parents having much higher expectations for only children.
As far as social skills are concerned, research has shown that only children join fewer organisations, but have a comparable number of close friends, assume leadership positions in clubs and are happy. Studies conclude that their social competence is high, but that their social need may be less strong than others as a result of increased parental affection.
Only children rarely rebel as teenagers. Instead, they are more likely to do so in their forties, when the close relationship with their parents may become suffocating. Like all triangular relationships, that between parents and an only child can be problematic. If the parents are very close to each other, the child can feel excluded, but so, too, can one or other of the parents. Only children tend to show more affection for their parents.
Various studies have found that only children have a more highly-developed sense of self esteem. Research would indicate, however, that they’re no more self-regarding that other groups.
So, there you go. Don’t think of an only child as lonely and alone. Instead, take pride in the fact that they’re the ‘one and only’!