Is Having Only One Child Good for the Child?

Written by Debbie Cohen

Are you considering having an only-child family but concerned about the effects on your little one?  Only children speak out about the pros (more toys!) and cons (no one to play with!) of being an 'only'. There are an estimated 20 million only-child households in the United States, making the one-child family an increasingly popular option for many career-driven parents.

How do only children feel about growing up in a sibling-free family? Are their self-images tainted by stereotypes that portray them as self-centered, temperamental or spoiled? Join four vastly different onlies as they reflect on life in a one-child family.

Parents of "onlys" can encourage their children to develop relationships with other kids by:
Considering sending toddlers to pre-school at an early age.
Encouraging older children to participate in extracurricular activities like team sports, singing in the choir or the school play.
Make extended family an integral part of your child's life.

Judith Joy/11-year-old elementary school student
I can remember sitting at the dinner table with my parents, not having a clue what they were talking about. It was always all this adult stuff and I would get bored and wish I had someone to play with. But I also felt special and glad I didn't have to share toys. I think it made me learn to entertain myself. Still, when I grow up I think I will have more than one kid.

Peter Thompkins/17-year-old high school senior
I'll admit it. I want what my friends have. And most of my friends have brothers and sisters. I have the same clothes, drive a great car, play the same sports, but that's the one thing I can't have. A younger sister with cute girlfriends would be nice! Plus, because I am their only kid, I get a lot of pressure from my parents, about getting into college, things like that.

Nancy Marquez/29-year-old single mom
Growing up as an only child is very unusual in my (Mexican) culture, where family means everything. My mom took off when I was little and my dad took care of me until he ended up in prison. I was pretty much raised by my extended family. Then, when I was 14 years old, I got pregnant and had a baby. Luckily, my family was very supportive and, with their help, I was able to finish high school. It's funny that I was an only child, and now I have an only child.

Joseph Schneor/45-year-old businessman
When I was growing up, I thought women got pregnant by eating tomatoes that grew in their stomach and became babies. I used to ask my mom to eat more tomatoes so I could have a brother or sister!  Now, decades later, my mom has passed on and my father is ill, and I am the only one around to care for him. I think things would be easier if I had a sibling to share what I'm going through. Instead, the prospect of being left an only child with no parents has led to what I guess you could call a sort of midlife crisis. I'm turning inward, asking myself what life is really all about.

Are you an only child? What do you think?

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