Growing Up an Only Child: An Adult Perspective

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These days more and more couples are deciding to have only one child. That is if they even decide to have children at all. But, for some reason, having an only child tends to attract a lot of unsolicited opinions from seemingly well-intentioned family members and friends, even though there are many valid reasons to have just one child. Waiting longer to have children, overpopulation, finances, and time to name just a few.

Still, many people have strong opinions on only children. I guess there are some subjects that force people to have to give their two cents even when it’s really none of their business. Such as their idea that children need a sibling. But do they? Will they be doomed to a life of loneliness without a sibling? Probably not.

I grew up as an only child, but I did not grow up alone. 

As with everything else in life, there are pros and cons to being an only child. Since I can’t miss what I never had, I am generally happy without siblings. If you are struggling with whether or not you should add another child to your family or if your only child will be a lonely child, they will not. Take it from me, an adult only child.

Growing up as an only child from an adult's perspective

Are only children lonely?

I didn’t realize it then, but I was fortunate to grow up in a small seaside town in Connecticut. There were always a lot of kids around to play with and since our town was small, no one lived too far away. I was never starved for companionship since I was playing with the neighborhood kids every day. 

Today’s lifestyles are different and people don’t feel as safe letting their kids play outside alone. But when you have an only child, it’s that much more important to get your children to socialize with other kids. If your neighborhood isn’t small and safe like mine was growing up, make that extra effort to get your kids to socialize with a core group of kids that can be their honorary siblings. 

Are only children spoiled?

I never understood this perception. A parent who is going to spoil their children will do so whether they have one or five. I didn’t have to compete for things, this is true, but that didn’t mean that I had more than my friends did. I also didn’t get my way any more than my friends with siblings did. Again, if a parent is going to give in to their child, they will do so no matter how many they have. So, no. Most only children aren’t more spoiled than children with siblings.

How does an only child develop communication skills?

I am an introvert but don’t know if I would attribute that to being an only child. I think it’s just who I am as a person. As I mentioned above, I lived in an area where I was always playing with other kids. I learned communication skills, sharing, and other important life skills through playing with my friends. Again, socialization is key. 

Do only children long for a sibling?

Some do and some don’t. I have heard plenty of adult only children say they wish they had a sibling, but not all of us do. When I was young I never longed for a sibling. In fact, almost all of the time I specifically didn’t want one. I was just fine having my friends and also having my alone time.

Now that I’m an adult, I am more conflicted. On one hand, I don’t have that close bond with another person who understands my family and parents as only a sibling can. On the other hand, I don’t have sibling drama to contend with. In general, I am perfectly happy being an only child and 98% of the time, I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

The bottom line 

I can tell you that I am not damaged, selfish, spoiled, or antisocial due to growing up as an only child. At least no more than anyone else. I can also tell you that your child will not suffer if they are your one and only. So when you start to wonder if your child needs a sibling so they will have a best friend, the best answer to the question is to do what’s best for you and your partner. Your child will have chosen siblings if they don’t have biological ones, so determine the best family size for you. Not for your parents, friends, or guilt over how your child may or may not feel in the future. For you. 


Growing up as an only child from an adult's perspective

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One Comment

  1. Regan, thanks for sharing such an intimate point of view. My wife and I wanted a big family. I know that our kids will rely on each other once we are gone, but I see both sides of the coin, and agree that it’s a very personal decision for a family.
    Like you, I have friends that grew up without siblings who are completely sociable and well-adjusted adults. I am curious to see if there is any “scientific” research on the subject. Thanks for writing this thought-provoking post.

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