Only Child Syndrome (OCS) is a new, and sometimes problematic, coinage for the behavior and attitude of an only child. We can’t sideline people just because they grew up without siblings. There are, in fact, many advantages to having a single child, and many benefits to dating one too. The pros and cons of being an only child also change according to each individual’s family dynamics and are multi-faceted in nature.
When you marry an only child or date one, there are a few things you may need to know about how being an only child affects relationships. They have learned to be independent, having grown up without any peers to be compared to in the house. But like everything else, being an only child comes with its share of pros and cons, ups and downs.
The common misconception is that being an only child means that the person is automatically selfish and is accustomed to undivided attention from their parents. However, that may not be true in most cases. In this article, consultant psychologist Jaseena Backer (MS Psychology), who is a gender and relationship management expert, tells us everything we need to know about this dynamic.
What It’s Like Being An Only Child
Being an only child comes with its own set of quirks and requirements. They often have to tackle a bunch of stereotypes about their personality, the most common ones being that they’re selfish, entitled, and not used to sharing. Contrary to popular perception, it can also be a fulfilling experience and a learning opportunity that can equip a person to handle their future relationships healthily.
Forget all the stereotypes and try to understand the unique ways only children are raised. Studies claim that family dynamics end up affecting the state of a child’s mental and physical health, and other studies suggest that children who have experienced a healthy family dynamic tend to do better in academics, interpersonal relationships as well as emotional well-being.
So in most cases, it can be argued that the kind of family a person has grown up in is more important than whether they were an only child or not. But are only children lonely in such a setup? Well, it depends on who you ask.
Some grow accustomed to solitude and cherish having a healthy relationship with themselves, others may long for siblings and feel lonely from time to time. Only child vs. siblings studies suggest that the intelligence of a child is not affected by the number of siblings they have, but there may be some differences in a few personality traits.
For example, the same study suggests that the psychological effects of being an only child make them more flexible, a trait that’s often associated with creativity. On the flip side, kids with siblings are often termed more “agreeable” than those without siblings. Let’s go into a bit more detail and talk about some things you should look out for if you are dating an only child.
Related Reading: 10 Must-Follow Healthy Relationship Boundaries
What Is Not True About Only Children
There are many stereotypes about only children. That they are spoiled and always get their way, being the most prevalent of them. But that’s not always the case, and that misconception needs to be tackled if you’re dating an only child, or it might lead to an unhealthy relationship from the get-go. Here are some things you should know about them:
1. They aren’t always entitled
Do not pigeonhole them or call them spoiled because they are sure to have many good qualities. Just because they grew up without any siblings doesn’t mean their parents spoiled and pampered them with too much attention. As we mentioned earlier, the values a person grows up with have more to do with the moral values and dynamics of the family they grew up with rather than the number of siblings they have. You probably know a bunch of entitled people who grew up with siblings anyway.
2. You shouldn’t judge them without talking to them
“Oh! That explains it!” Do not use this sentence when you come across an only child. Do not judge them based on your preconceived notions. According to Healthline.com, most psychologists agree that the ‘only child syndrome’ is probably a myth, and the stereotypes that come with it don’t hold any weight.
They gain different traits from the environment they live in as well as how they were raised by their parents. So, the next time you’re tempted to dismiss a person who grew up without any siblings for that sole reason, try not to view them through the lens of stereotypes and give them a chance.
3. They want to be accepted and welcomed
Don’t assume that they are selfish because contrary to popular belief, single children are quite giving as they want to be accepted by others. It is because of this need that a lot of them end up being people pleasers. In fact, according to studies, children who grew up without siblings may have a less positive self-image and tend to yearn for acceptance more. The evident low self-esteem also discredits the ‘only child syndrome’ theory that states that they’re usually extremely entitled and are full of themselves.
4. Are only children lonely? Nope!
Many people assume that only children grow up lonely and clingy. This is definitely not true because they are self-taught on how to be more disciplined and content with their own company. Also, just because they didn’t grow up with a sibling does not mean they are not good at social interactions.
As you probably already know, siblings can often be overrated. You might know people who have a negative relationship with their siblings, and they can tell you that resolving conflicts within the family isn’t the easiest thing to do. The number of siblings in your life does not determine how socially charming you are, or are not going to be.
These Things Are True For An Only Child
If you want to try and understand a potential romantic partner better, look for signs of maturity and someone who values their alone time. Only children are fiercely independent and are firm believers in what they stand for. These are some of the effects of being an only child in adulthood. In all honesty, being an only child doesn’t mean that you’re destined to grow up with certain traits that will identify you as one. With that said, here are a bunch of things that might be true in the case of an only child:
1. You won’t have to deal with immaturity
“I hate being an only child! Why was I not given a sibling?” is not something you’ll see an adult say. Sure, an only child might say such a thing when they’re 5 and notice that most of their friends have siblings, but as they grow older, you’ll see them understanding the importance of privacy, and they tend to mature a lot faster as well.
Having grown up in a household with adults instead of siblings, they usually have a high moral compass and tend to follow their beliefs unapologetically. So if you were trying to figure out how being an only child affects relationships, you’re bound to see a few good conflict resolution strategies from them.
2. Alone time is important to them
They like to have their ‘me’ time. Do not consider that as their selfishness, as they are used to being alone most of the time. This is how life has been for them. So for them to accept their partner into their personal space may not be very easy. Moreover, personal space in a relationship is often what holds it together, so don’t think of them exercising their own time with themselves as some sort of passive-aggressive move. It might just end up benefiting your relationship.
3. What is the difference between an only child and those with siblings? Intelligence and independence
Growing up without any siblings means that single children are used to being on their own right from their childhood. As a result, their decisions may come out as strong and grounded. You don’t have to worry about them sabotaging relationships by being clingy. Moreover, studies suggest that children without siblings often have a better relationship with their parents and a higher cognitive score than children with siblings. Who would’ve thought that the only child vs. siblings debate would take such a turn?
4. Effects of being an only child in adulthood: They’re good judges of character
They are not people with zero tolerance but they are definitely mature enough to identify relationship red flags and are clear about what amounts to a deal breaker for them. They are mostly able to identify toxic relationships and keep away from them. It all stems from the strong belief system that they tend to have. In the list of pros and cons of being an only child, this pro definitely turns out to be very useful for all the single children out there.
5. They’re punctual and disciplined
Since they have always fended for themselves when their parents weren’t around, they have a knack for getting things done on time. They are very punctual and know how to get things done well before the deadline. These traits definitely work in their favor if you’re here wondering whether an only child makes for a good long-term partner. Their ability to stay organized certainly reflects in the way they handle their relationships.
Related Reading: What To Expect When You’re Dating An Only Child
Things To Remember When You’re With An Only Child
So, you’ve found yourself in a new relationship with someone who grew up without siblings. First things first, we hope you’ve thrown out the stereotypes and the preconceptions far out of your head. Their parents may have initially worried about their child growing up to say “I hate being an only child!” but as it turns out, they bloom into fine, responsible adults. Let’s now talk about a few psychological effects of being an only child that you might need to keep in mind:
1. They aren’t necessarily spoiled brats
Do not drive home the point to them that since they were raised as an only child, life has been easier for them than it has been for you. When their parents realize they are pampered, they also put their foot down on strictness. It won’t be fair to outright assume that they must be spoiled silly by their parents just because they were the sole offspring.
2. Not all of them are introverted and shy
They aren’t loners/introverts/asocial despite having grown up without siblings. Only children make great friends and enjoy camaraderie with their peers. The only difference is that they may be able to spend a lot of time with themselves without a problem. This often translates into relationships as well, as they want their personal space in relationships and are more than willing to accord their partners the same.
3. They know how to get things done
Having lived without peers for a better part of life, they become self-reliant. Therefore, they are used to sorting out their own problems and may prefer to be left alone while dealing with them. So, if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who doesn’t have siblings, they’re probably not going to come to you with their problems often, asking for support and comfort. A clingy relationship is the last thing you’ll have to worry about.
4. They can often be workaholics and ‘type A’ personalities
They can be very particular about their routine. If they are workaholics, it is hard to get them to give you attention, but if they are lazy and couch potatoes, good luck getting them to do anything. Of course, the core personality of a person isn’t just shaped by one aspect of their life such as them being an only child. Their behavior, their likes, and dislikes, and how they react to certain situations are the result of the collective experiences of their life, not just the fact that they didn’t have anyone to share a room with while growing up.
Related Reading: 10 Family Values That Help You Forever In Life
5. Adjusting may be hard for them initially
If they’ve grown up in solitude, with their own room and privacy, there’s probably a way of living that they’re very used to. Though studies tell us that the psychological effects of being an only child include them being a lot more flexible than most, that may not be the case when their routines are put under scrutiny. Then again, when has adjusting in a marriage or a relationship ever been easy for anyone?
The Pros And Cons Of Being An Only Child
By now, you must have understood that people who grew up without siblings cannot be solely defined by that aspect of their life. Though being an only child does affect their personalities, it does not completely shape the kind of person they become. With that said, let’s sum it all up with a few general pros and cons of being an only child.
|Pros of being an only child||Cons of being an only child|
|They have a closer relationship with their parents||In some cases, they may be too attached to their parents|
|Mature and independent||They may be too accustomed to their rituals|
|Often score higher on cognitive functioning tests||Might need a bit more personal space than most|
|Studies suggest they’re more flexible than others||Often not as ‘agreeable’ as others|
|They will never be clingy or overly dependent on a partner||They battle stereotypes all their lives|
|They often handle situations in manners they believe are correct||They may have less positive self-image|
We hope you’ve now gotten rid of some stereotypes. There’s a lot that goes on in a person’s life apart from the fact that they grew up alone, so to judge them solely on that basis is not an accurate deduction.
Living with an adult who has been an only child just takes some understanding on the part of the spouse and things get better with mutual adjustments. Although there are some disadvantages of being with someone who has grown up as a single child, you can work your way around these minor problems in a relationship. After all, is there ever a relationship without any problems whatsoever?
Being an only child, your partner can also show you a fresh perspective on many things. Their concepts of sharing, living, and cooking may be a bit different from those of people who grew up with siblings. Since they are so mature, they can teach you a more organized and efficient way of living.
Most of the time, no. Children who are raised without any siblings find company elsewhere and are masters of spending time with themselves.
Maturity, intelligence, and discipline are the benefits of being an only child. However, people who grow up without siblings also tend to be too set in their ways from early on in life.
There is no one to look out for you and have your back. They grow up fending for themselves and don’t have a partner-in-crime to confide in.
Yes, it is okay to have only one child. Parents, don’t think too hard about things like: Are only children lonely? In fact, studies suggest that their cognitive reasoning, as well as their relationship with parents, is often better than those with siblings.
An only child may value privacy a lot more than others, they may be self-sufficient but might have less positive self-esteem. However, the personality of an only child doesn’t solely depend on the fact that they grew up without siblings.