CauseAChatter · Parenting

Only Me! – Does being an only child effect mental wellness?

Are you an only child or do you have a sibling? Haven’t you heard (parent or not) at some point of time that an only child is a spoiled one? That they are too stubborn and do not share. They do not socialize especially when things don’t go as per their way. Compromises are a big No! There are chances that they might grow up being a lone wolf. When these traits were studied it got a name. Only Child Syndrome.

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Lets see what researchers and psychologists have to say about Only Child Syndrome. Is it real or just a myth?

Only children have stereotypes and are very familiar with many people. I myself have seen many kids who because of being single have been pampered by their parents and families. They are adviced to have another child just to get the only child down to earth of I may say so…

This syndrome came into existence somewhere in the late 1800s when child psychologists G. Stanley Hall and  E. W. Bohannon used a questionnaire to study different traits in children. They concluded that children without siblings possessed a long list of negative behavioural traits. They both were firm with their idea and also pushed that children are better off with siblings.

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Some researches that took place later on, did agree with Hall and Bohannon while some researchers found some flaws in their study and called Only Child Syndrome a myth.

There might be some truth in it though. A new study suggested that to some degree, these conventions are true. Only children didn’t score as well as participants with siblings in the personality trait known as agreeableness. The differences were interestingly seen to be wired in the structure of the brain itself. It’s surprising that there can be a correlation between personality and neurology but the study says that that the environment we grow up in does affect us, and maybe right down to our brain cells.

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But that doesn’t mean that single child in a family lags in everything. There are pros and cons on both sides.

The researchers wanted to study the psychological and neurological conditions, so they looked at college students who were only child in China, a country which has been under one-child policy for more than 30 years. They compared the intelligence, personality and creativity scores of participants being only child to participants with siblings. Even their brain scans were compared to find structural differences.Lets see what they found out in their research.

Neurological differences were also found as there were differences in the structures of their brains.

Only children have better relationship with their parents but that again depends on the parents and the place where they reside. According to the study in China, families from urban areas where parents were both working, the only child went through low love awareness, depression, trait anxiety and dependency as compared to urban children with siblings. Low love awareness can result in negative mental health according to the analysis.

Not much difference was found in rural only and non-only children.

As the saying goes, “You need a village to raise a child”. It seems that it is true after all.

Photo by Gabby K from Pexels

Another fact that I came across through a friend in my Engineering days who was an only child. During a discussion, he shared that he did have a great relationship with his parents, more with his mother specifically and mom was a home-maker. But he did have an imaginary friend upto a certain age and preferred that company. He said he wished that he would have a sibling.

All this sounds a bit too harsh and maybe scary, right! But it definitely shows that it does affect a child’s mental well-being. That doesn’t mean that parents should jump in right away to have another child or that if you can’t, your only-child will definitely have issues. You will find people who will share that they are happy to be an only-child and are now parenting an only-child as well.

There are many ways to make sure that an only-child turns out to be a mentally healthy child.

1.      Allow freedom

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An only child mostly has a parent or a caretaker hovering over them all the time while siblings are left to play on their own. Only child should be allowed to play on their own as well which will help them develop their ideas. Give them their own space, their own freedom to grow.

2.     Encourage individualism

Make sure to make the child understand that individualism is important and not always crave to be part of the crowd. Praise their individuality.

3.     More and more playdates

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Expose the child to more and more of social settings and give them chances to be around peers. Being around more kids can help them learn to interact.

4.     Encourage passions

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Get your kid involved into many activities and mostly outside the house where they are with peers and into social settings. They will not only find their interests but also develop a sense of self which is good for every child but especially onlies.

5.     Learning compromise

This value needs to be taught from time to time. Something that onlies might not have to go through at home as there is no sibling to challenge them in different situations. Do not give them everything they ask unless it is necessary.

6.     Healthy relationship with parents

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Onlies or not, kids need to have a transparent relationship with their parents. They need their love and support from time to time but that does not mean you let everything go as a parent of an only child. Being their friend might not work every time but will help a great deal when being their secret sharer.

7.     Do not swoop in every time

Every parent has the urge to protect their child in every situation but its healthy for them and especially for onlies to know how to navigate themselves in such situations and find their way out on their own.

8.     Teach empathy

Kids with siblings learn this value as they have to consider them in every or many situations. Onlies need to be taught this by their parents. Create situations where they get to see and learn empathy. Volunteer at orphanages and old-age homes. Help friends and family when in need.

9.     Be the encouragement

Onlies are kind of perfectionists as parents and grandparents praise them in everything they do. Whwther or not their work is good, all they get is praise. There is no immediate competition as such at home. They tend be more upset when they lack or fail at times. Make sure they take it all in a good way. They should learn to accept failures but as a parent instead of piling on their disappointments, make sure you encourage them when they fall.

10. Don’t make a mini version of you

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Do not expect that all that you did not do or get in your childhood, the dreams that were not fulfilled will be completed by your child. That your child will probably turn out to be a doctor or an engineer or an artist. That is just your only child and not a second chance for your redemption.

If your a parent with an only child, don’t be stressed. Many children who are onlies are loving and compassionate and wonderful human beings. If your child does have some difficulties, know that you can always help them to get back in the right direction!

This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter.

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15 thoughts on “Only Me! – Does being an only child effect mental wellness?

  1. Very useful post Seema. I’ve been brought up with my 2 siblings so I can’t relate to it. But these points are very helpful for parents having single child – I too fall in that category. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My son is an only child. I was aware how being a single child affects the growth and behavioural pattern. I have implemented a few of your suggestions like playdates, imbibing the habit of sharing with others, giving him freedom etc. He is 18 now and is a fine balanced lad. Touch wood. Loved reading this post and the scientific study and the insights!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve seen that many a times only child does feel lonely and demands a 2nd baby …. I being raised in a joint family always knew the power of siblings and cousins and hence wanted two kids. And I’ve seen it as a blessing during this lockdown times.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an interesting concept – does seem to be highly probably and something which can be observed. offcourse there are exceptions, and i can now see, how the parents must have implemented the tips you have suggested in order to ensure their single child grew up to be an all-rounder and overall a better version.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very well researched post and I vouch for your recommendations because we have a single child and we take care he is not left alone and we both remain his best friends

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good to know about the research and study on Only child syndrome. Many pointers in the post are well practised by many families who have single child but as a society collectively we should stop looking single child from biased lens.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve had many friends who were only kids and realised their anguish about loneliness closely. That said, that didn’t affect their personal growth in any way. Good points you’ve mentioned here!

    Liked by 1 person

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