Worried About Having an Only Child?
By Lynn Harris of Babble
When I was maybe five, my parents told me I was going to be a big sister. Shortly thereafter, they said sorry, false alarm. I cried because it upset me to see my mom crying, not because I was all that sad. A sibling? Uh-uh. Sharing the spotlight, toys — anything, really— sorry, that’s not in my contract. Because being an only was excellent. Yes, being an only child was all I knew, but still. I’d observed my friend Kara always having to “give Danny a turn.” I’d witnessed the masking-tape-down-the-middle-of-the-bedroom incident with Laurel and her big sister. There was the time Tamar and I arrived at her elaborate playhouse only to find it taken over (“nO gIrLs!!!!”) by her brother Ben and his Visigoth pals.
Then again, while it was awesome to torment Rachel’s little sister Melanie by attaching a pencil to a Lazy Susan and forcing her to eat a sandwich of whatever it pointed to when spun (relish, Marshmallow Fluff, Fancy Feast), I was also happy to come home from play dates alone —to a leaning tower of library books, to a game of Pick Up Sticks with my also-only dad, to my Raggedy Ann-themed spot at the center of the universe.
There were lonely days, sure. (Doctor, was it significant that my most vivid daydreams were about the kids from Zoom coming over to play?) But socially, overall, I did fine. I had plenty of non-imaginary friends. I was even popular-ish, for a dork. Considering the enduring images of onlies in research — socially awkward! Indoorsy! — and pop culture — The Bad Seed! Manny! — was I an oddball for not being much of an oddball?
Maybe not, according to new data. An analysis of 13,500 responses from kids in grades 7-12 who were asked to select five friends from among their schoolmates revealed that “Only Child Syndrome” doesn’t really exist; in the study, only children were just as likely to be “friended” by their classmates as those who grew up with siblings. These results offer a counterpoint to a growing fear that sibling-less-ness hurts kids’ social skills, said Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University’s Marion campus. Her conclusion: “I don’t think anyone has to be concerned that if you don’t have siblings, you won’t learn the social skills you need to get along with other students in high school.”