Only Child Syndrome: A Closer Look At The World Of An Only Child


Only Child Syndrome: Exploring An Only Child's World

What is the only child syndrome and how does an only child feel growing up without siblings? This article is going to talk about how it feels being an only child, and what it entails. So, let’s get started, shall we?

There is a stereotype that only children, children without siblings, fail to develop the ordinary social bonds and attachments that children with siblings do. The reality is more nuanced.

It does not follow that children with siblings are automatically more adaptable, more able to share, more able to understand group dynamics, but it is the case that only children didn’t grow up having to deal with sibling rivalry, or with having to share their parents.

They haven’t had the experience of being overlooked by a parent who may have preferred a sibling to them. Equally, they haven’t had another sibling to help them manage a difficult and demanding parent.

All of these experiences are individual to each of us and shape our early experiences and attachment bonds.

Related: Why Mothers With One Child Are Happiest

When loneliness is onliness

An only child knows what is sometimes referred to as ‘onliness,’ that is, the loneliness of being the only child in the family.

As a category, the ideas associated with only child syndrome are based more upon myth than fact. Only child syndrome might be a label but it isn’t an actual psychological condition.

It is the case that only children do not grow up with a sibling to help organise and shape the world for them, but that doesn’t mean that the child will be self-centered, selfish, or narcissistic as the myths often claim.

In Western culture, the only child is often thought of as something of a misfit, but this says more about our prejudices than anything else. If an only child is seen to be causing problems, struggling at school, etc, this can quickly and unfairly be blamed upon the child being an only child rather than anything else.

The caricature is that only children are spoiled and have grown up being used to getting whatever they want from their parents, and that this in turn fuels selfishness. These qualities are then identified in the adult the only child goes on to become.

It is true that only children might have been able to get more attention from their parents, than children with siblings, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Some only children, just like they may feel they missed out on having siblings, are more neglected by parents.

Only child syndrome: When an only child grows up with siblings

Are you the only child of an only child?

The child of an only child may find themselves in competition with their parent who, having grown up only thinking more about themselves and their needs, may struggle to know how to accommodate the needs of their child.

Related: 10 Different Types Of Siblings And Why They Are Important For A Happy Life

Only Child Syndrome

Only children may have grown up with a greater sense of loneliness than children with siblings.

Only children have had to bear their parent’s emotional states without it being diluted by siblings. Equally, they may have felt themselves to have had more attention from their parents than they wanted.

For some only children, childhood had a claustrophobic quality, the sense that they were always being monitored, that childhood lacked the freedom that they saw their friends be offered.

Some only children grow up feeling themselves extra special, that they were so exposed to their parent’s hopes and ambitions that they could never find the freedom to be themselves. These children may feel more pressure to deliver on their parents’ high expectations.

The imagination of the only child

For a lot of only children who spent a lot of time in their childhoods alone, they may as a consequence have developed more of a relationship with an imaginary internal world. They may have spent much more time daydreaming than children with siblings.

  • So the only child may be more prone to introversion than children with siblings.
  • Faced with challenges in groups they may be more prone to withdraw.

That’s not to say that children who grew up with siblings are all extroverts, but growing up an only child naturally puts the developmental accent more on independence. Only children are perhaps more at home dealing with things by themselves.

The question for a lot of adult only children is how to adapt and fit into the world when they have been so used to being autonomous and to being alone.

For example, how to handle criticism? Does growing up an only child make it harder to navigate the complexities of a larger social group? Growing up with siblings encourages a wider range of social skills.

All of this may mean that the only child has to work harder to accommodate and feel themselves at home in groups. They may struggle to feel comfortable if they go on to have more than one child themselves and may have to pay attention to how they come to terms and adapt and adjust.

Related: 12 Reasons Why The Middle Child Is The Best Child

In relationships, we may need to find ways to curb our independence so that we can create good attachments in the families we aspire to create.

Written By Toby Ingham
Originally Appeared On Toby Ingham
an only child

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Up Next

Are Your Parents Manipulating You? 4 Warning Signs Of Manipulative Parents And How To Break Free 

Signs of Manipulative Parents You Can't Ignore

Have you ever found yourself constantly doubting your own thoughts and feelings, or feeling guilty for asserting your needs? Does it have anything to do with your parents’ words or behaviors? If so, it may be important to identify the signs of manipulative parents.

Some toxic parents can be masterminds of manipulation, who know all the tricks to keep you under their thumb. They can easily disguise their behavior and create a deep negative impact on their children’s emotional well-being and development. 

Being aware of manipulative parents, recognizing the things they say, and knowing the signs are essential steps towards breaking free from their influence.

Understanding Manipulative Parents

Up Next

How To Become A Better Father And Create Lasting Memories With Your Kids

How To Become A Better Father: Tips and Tricks

Wondering how to become a better father? It’s a question that has echoed through the ages, as fathers play a vital role in shaping the lives of their children. 

The journey of fatherhood is a unique and rewarding experience that requires patience, love, and a deep commitment to personal growth. Let us explore the essence of a good father and provide actionable tips on being a good father. 

Whether you are a new dad or have been on this journey for a while, this guide will serve as a compass to help you navigate the challenges and joys of fatherhood.

Who is a Good Father?

Up Next

Is Your Child Anxious? 3 Anxiety Symptoms In Children You Shouldn’t Ignore and How To Help

Anxiety Symptoms In Children You Shouldn't Ignore

Does your child struggle with irrational fears and worries? While these could be a normal part of growing up, they could also be signs of something more serious. Let’s take a look at anxiety symptoms in children.

As parents, we often strive to create a safe and nurturing environment for our children, but sometimes, we may overlook the subtle signs of mental health issues that they exhibit. Today, we are going to shed light on what causes anxiety in children, its signs, and how to treat anxiety in children.

By understanding these crucial aspects, we can provide the support and care our children need to navigate their anxiety and flourish.

What is Anxiety in Children?

Up Next

10 Signs Of Middle Child Syndrome: Lost In Between The Family Shuffle

Signs Of Middle Child Syndrome: Lost In Family Shuffle

Welcome to the world of ‘Middle Child Syndrome’, where birth order psychology meets the complex world of family dynamics. Imagine this: sandwiched between the attention-seeking elder sibling and a thoroughly pampered youngest one, is the middle child, who is often overlooked, and misunderstood, yet brimming with endless complexities.

If you are a middle child, you know exactly how it feels. It’s like you’re stuck between sky-high parental expectations and complex sibling rivalry.

This article is going to talk in-depth about the middle child syndrome, what is middle child syndrome and some of its most interes

Up Next

When Family Feels Like Foes: 12 Secret Signs Your Family Hates You And What To Do

Signs Your Family Hates You: Red Flags

Have you ever felt invisible, unloved, or unsupported within your own family? It’s a heartbreaking experience to realize that those who are supposed to be our closest allies may not prioritize our well-being. Let’s explore the signs your family hates you.

These signs indicate that your family may not care about you, and offer guidance on how to cope with this difficult situation. Remember, you are not alone, and there are steps you can take to build a fulfilling life despite the absence of familial support.

When Your Family Doesn’t Care About You

Family is often considered the cornerstone of love, compassion, and belonging. How

Up Next

When Your Grown Child Hurts Your Feelings: 9 Healing Strategies Every Parent Needs To Know

What To Do When Your Grown Child Hurts Your Feelings: Tips

As parents, we invest our hearts and souls into raising our children, nurturing them with love, support, and guidance. However, as they grow into mature adults and carve their own paths, the dynamics of our relationship inevitably change. When your grown child hurts your feelings, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it can often be difficult to cope with.

This can leave us feeling confused, saddened, and unsure about how to navigate these emotional challenges. So today let us take a look at what to do when your grown child hurts your feelings so that you can heal yourself and your relationships.

How It Feels When Your Grown Child Hurts Your Feelings

Imagine this: You’ve poured your he

Up Next

Missing Home: How Do You Cure Homesickness And Find Comfort In Your New Environment?

How Do You Cure Homesickness? Tips to Rediscover Joy

Have you ever experienced that longing for home, that melancholic feeling that creeps in when you’re away from familiar surroundings? Homesickness is a common emotion that many of us have encountered at some point in our lives. But how do you cure homesickness?

Whether you’re a student studying abroad, a traveler exploring new horizons, or simply living away from home, homesickness can strike unexpectedly and leave you feeling vulnerable. 

Let us explore the concept of homesickness, understanding what does homesickness feel like, how long does homesickness last, and most importantly, how to deal with homesickness.

What is Homesickness?