You know that stereotype of a snotty, spoiled only child? The kid who never learns how to share or socialize and acts way too grown up because they never get any playtime with other children? Well apparently, that’s bullshit. The Observer ran a report from the Understanding Society study in Britain that found only children to be happier children. And the more siblings they had, the less happy they were.
Researchers are hypothesizing many reasons for this sibling-induced unhappiness. The biggest reason seems to be everyone’s favorite issue, bullying, with approximately 30% of children being called “nasty names” by their siblings. The other culprits seem to be lack of privacy and competition for parental attention.
While these findings may run against preconceived notions, they aren’t illogical. As a child, I had plenty of arguments with my older siblings. And when I was in middle school, I was more likely to tell you that my brother smelled and never let me play with him and his friends then about the time he scared the crap out of the boy at my bus stop who was making lewd and icky comments to me every morning. Seriously, Nicky, I can still see the look of terror in that boy’s eyes as you drove away! And he never spoke to me again. Thank you!
For a long time, parents have worried that only children lagged behind their peers socially. My grandmother once told me that you should have at least 4 children, because every girl deserved a sister and every boy deserved a brother. I never asked what happened if you got 3 girls and 1 boy. Back to the science, if I remember right, several studies proved this theory to be untrue. Now, it looks like single-child families are the psychological winners. But I think this may be another stereotype that withers away as children age. I may have complained that Nicky smelled when I was younger (I think teenage angst has a very distinct odor), but now I appreciate having an older brother. He gets to help with my parents’ 30th anniversary party and we can drink too much together at family gatherings. Every once in a while we have long talks on a drive to visit our grandparents and my daughter will frequently steal my cell phone to call Uncle Nick.
I’m not saying that only-child or Brady Bunch is necessarily better than the other, but I think the pros and cons might even out as we get older. Sure I might have been picked on more, but now I have siblings to support me and care about me. As my parent’s get older, I’ll have help, should I need to help take care of them. And most importantly, whether we argue or disagree, I have siblings who love me. I’ve never been an only child, so I don’t know how they feel about it all. But I’m interested in finding out! Do you think having siblings helps a child grow or leads to unhappy bickering? Are only children really the happiest of them all?