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Jul 30 2016
by Ciara Freeman

The Top 7 Misconceptions of Being an Only Child

By Ciara Freeman - Jul 30 2016
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According to the Chicago Tribune, roughly 80 percent of Americans have at least one sibling. So, what does that leave for the remaining 20 percent?

Being an only child, you may have felt the pain of skipping the "siblings," tab while filling out documents and college applications. They have been forced to skip giving sibling descriptions while introducing themselves. They may have even been told, "You're so lucky! My sibling drives me insane," or, "Isn't it boring being all alone?"

As an only child myself, I have experienced all of the situations above and then some. However, having no siblings to share life with hasn't been (and doesn't have to be) an entirely negative situation. Unlike what many people assume about us, being an only child does not automatically reduce us to selfish, spoiled and inconsiderate brats. In fact, the amount of successful diplomats, activists, authors, politicians and entertainers without siblings say otherwise. Here is a list of the top seven misconceptions people often believe about being an only born.

1. Isolation

Often what people associate only children with is being constantly alone all of the time. This unfortunate stereotype is actually the furthest from the truth. Yes, we may not share a bedroom with a sibling but we do share our lives with our dearest loved ones! It's not uncommon for only children to develop a strong bond with their parents as their parents have only one child to direct their attention toward. Having an extended family, cousins, best friends, neighbors and pets all contribute to developing a rich and fulfilling life. There are alternative ways for only children to be exposed to people, and we often make a conscious effort to include ourselves in society. We make just as many friends as those with siblings. Moreover, we even find quirky methods to keep ourselves entertained while being alone, like engaging in sports, taking extracurricular classes, creating artistic crafts, drawing, singing, writing or learning new skills. Just remember, lacking siblings is not always synonymous with lacking social companions.

2. Lack of Social Skills

Many others believe that only children are doomed to be socially awkward. This stereotype has been researched since the 19th century, where having many children was the cultural norm. A study done by scientist E.W. Bohannon in 1896 concluded that sibling-less children were more likely to be "peculiar, ugly, poorly behaved, and stupid." Later, an expert claims that families with only one child were more likely to be dysfunctional both physically and mentally. To debunk this myth, modern research done by professor Falbo has helped to reverse the stereotype by conducting a successful social experiment which proved that single children scored higher for self esteem than their counterparts. They also have a much easier time avoiding peer pressure since this submission often begins with siblings at home.

Additionally, some of the onlyborns I have met have been the most outgoing, social and gregarius individuals that I've ever encountered. They are so full of life because of the innate desire to learn about people different from their own kin! Only children often showcase an incredible ability to fully listen and exibit empathetic qualities while engaging in conversation. This may be because they're exposed to more adult conversation and parental attention which contributes to advanced language skills and knowledge at a younger age. Old souls for the win!

3. Introversion

On the topic of Carl Jung's introversion/extraversion theory, only children aren't confined to only one personality type. The inclination for a person to take on the psychological traits of an extravert or introvert are a matter of environmental circumatance. As Northwestern University student Alissa D. Eischens states, "Ultimately, an only child's environment forces him or her to take on both characteristics of introversion and extraversion despite natural inclinations to be one or the other." For example, a typically reserved and introverted student may wish to make friends and thus expand their extraverted qualities. The reverse is also common, as a typically open and extraverted student may showcase their introverted qualities in order to remain in touch with their own thoughts.

4. Selfishness & Being Spoiled Brats

"You're an only child, you must get everything you ask for, don't you?," is a fairly familiar line many of us sibling-less individuals have probably heard in our youth. Perhaps the most common myth related to being the onlyborn is that we are "all about oursevles." Being labeled as "spoiled" or "attention-seeking" is only due to the century old biases poisoned by personal opinion that I touched on earlier. Our parents are not our personal fairy godmothers waiting to grant our every wish. Just like everyone else in the world, we often have to work for the items we may want. We do not have problems sharing our possessions. Likewise, we are some of the most contented and friendly people due to the absence of "sibling bullying" which has also been proven to contribute to unhappiness. Not to mention, we are aware of our blessings and remain grateful over our situations.

5. Being Controlling

While being raised, people complain that only children are demanding of their parents constant attention and become extremely needy. They say we take them for granted because we know that they will "always be there for us and only us." However, isn't this the general mindset of any naive, learning, growing and developing child? When we reach adulthood they state that we feel entitled to have more than equal standing in relationships and we often assume that we are always right. As kids, adults and everything in between, the human brain hasn't even had a chance to be fully developed yet, and they don't reach full maturity until the age of 25 years old. We all learn something new every day! With that being said, let's collectively learn to be more empathetic. Please, don't blame an only child for being young.

6. Lower Academic Achievement Than Those With Siblings

Sibling-less children should thank their lack of brothers and sisters for their high test scores. Research suggests that only children may perform better academically and may also have higher IQ scores on average – surprisingly, on verbal skills.

7. Lack of Success

Have you ever watched a movie starring Samuel L. Jackson or Betty White? Listened to a song by Elvis, Frank Sinatra or Alicia Keys? Maybe even heard a speech by American diplomat, activist and former First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt? These successful indivuduals happen to be only children! Psychologist Carl E. Pickhardt comments that only children are "typically supported by parents to develop themselves, achieve highly and live up to their parents' high investment and expectations." Constantly being around the presence of adults may sharpen social and verbal skills, skills highly valued within the workforce.

A solid quote by Pickhardt states that "Growing up as an 'only' can be very empowering, creating very self-dedicated, strong-willed individuals who push themselves hard to achieve what they want." While this mindset creates strong-willed, hardworking individuals, it can also turn us into perfectionists. It's important to state that only children are not perfect and people with siblings aren't either. Constantly striving to be the best versions of ourselves should be viewed as the ultimate goal.

With family sizes shrinking more and more and one-child households doubling every decade, the days being labeled as the "lonely only" are long gone, folks! Be proud of your upbringing, whatever circumstance it happened to be.

Lead Image Credit: Wallpaperup.com


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Ciara Freeman - Loyola Marymount University

Ciara Freeman is a Staff Writer/Campus News Correspondent and sophomore at Loyola Marymount University pursuing a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Journalism. She is a passionate student, world traveler, global citizen and foodie. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, acting and practicing yoga. Follow her on Instagram: @ciarafreeman_!

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