So is an only child really a lonely one (and selfish)?

 only child really a lonely one

I had always envisioned that I would have at least two children, perhaps a brood…but as we all know life as a parent rarely bares any resemblance to the stuff we dreamed about beforehand, and for a whole host of reasons, we – like an increasing number of families – have decided to have only one child.

But I can’t help sometimes thinking in that doing so I am robbing my daughter of something she will never know – sibling love. I have lost count of the times people have insinuated to me that a only child is a lonely child. But given that my sister and I had practically no relationship growing up with an almost five year age gap which made us totally unable to relate to each other, it did make me wonder….is an only child really a lonely child?

In this day and age – in the age of playgroups, playdates and clubs of every kind possibly imaginable, it did make me question….does an only child even have the chance to be lonely? My daughter is forever hanging out with other children either at our home or their homes, has loads of friends at school and out of school, has a full, rich and vibrant life which quite frankly makes ME look like the loser. Lonely…doesn’t really seem to be a word that seems to describe her existence so far.

The there is the idea that only children are selfish. Yes, perhaps some only children might be selfish, if they have been spoilt rotten because they are an only child, but I have raised my daughter to always know she is not the centre of the universe, that she has to wait her turn, and that she has to be kind and compassionate to others.

So is my daughter odd, selfish, a loner or an outcast because she has no siblings? Absolutely not. In this day and age when more and more parents are choosing to stop at one, I think the concept of an only child being a lonely child is quite frankly, for the most part, outdated.

But that’s just my hunch. There are also so many studies that actually point to some really positive character traits in only children. Those such as better confidence and self-esteem for starters. So surely it can’t be that bad a thing?

However having said all of that, I DO think the key to having a happy only child is to make sure they are well socialized so they can have the opportunity to form connections with others outside their mum and dad unit which will stand them in good stead for their journey into adulthood. Something I admit to actively working on but I can’t speak for others.

The upshot? Being an only child is no longer something to be pitied, and can actually be quite a positive thing. And if you don’t believe me, read more about what being an only child says about you according to science.

Do you have an only child? What do you think of the above? Or perhaps you are of the view that an only child IS a lonely and selfish child? Do share in a comment below.

Is an only child really a lonely child?

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25 comments

  1. I agree that there is nothing wrong with being an only child and it is great that you are teaching your daughter to be able to share and ensure that she does socialize. People can be so judgmental but just know it is your choice and noone else. Ignore the naysayers hun x

  2. Most of my mum friends have one child and both they and their child are happy. Being social is key for children for lots of reasons, but like you say it is easily achievable these days 🙂

  3. We just have the one. I am always being told that I should be giving her a sibling and that once my husband are gone she’ll have no one. Morbid. But she is far from lonely. She’s quite the social butterfly and has 6 cousins so they are like sisters and brothers to her.

  4. I was an only child for almost 8 years, I would like to say that I wasn’t lonely or selfish as I always spent time with family, friends and cousins.
    Loved teaching her, colours, to read and to ride a bike… Now that my sister and I are at an older age, it’s great to have a sibling to chat with, or have a few drinks and family gossip with 🙂 xxx 🙂

  5. My husband still sometimes wonders if our son will be lonely growing up but I don’t think he is/will be. Like you said there are so many other opportunities out there for only children to make meaningful friendships that the days of an only child being a lonely child are few and far between. As for the selfish child, that’s down to parenting as you’ve said x

  6. I don’t think you can generalise like that. Personally I grew up living in an area with no kids and no cousins in the family until I was 10. I can’t imagine what life would have been like without my brother for company. But that’s just my experience, I can’t see how you can label any family unit as each is completely different. Kids can be lonely even when surrounded by siblings. Only kids can be selfish and siblings can be selfish. All depends on the individual family unit.

  7. I have mixed views on this as I am a bit biased as there are just 16 months between me and my brother and we are close. But I do think in the modern world where there’s so many options for social interaction kids aren’t lonely x

  8. There’s no such thing as perfect number of children, only what feels perfect for you. I’m one of four and I loved having siblings. There’s going to be a two and half year age gap between Edith and this baby. I honestly don’t think it makes a difference to how people feel. As long as you’re all happy that’s all that matters.

  9. I don’t think there is a perfect number of children. We have two, and my older son begged for a younger sibling. But I have friends who are very happy with one child, and even one friend whose daughter categorically does not want a sibling.

  10. I am an only child. Growing up I rarely felt lonely, in fact I can only think of one occasion when ironically all of my many friends were away on holiday at the same time. You certainly learn to be more independent which is a good thing. As for being selfish, I wish, my biggest downfall is putting everyone before myself. You stick with one child, there’s nothing wrong with being an only #coolmumclub x

  11. Well said darling. I have a sister who is 17 years older than me and I have no relationship with her at all. I was effectively raised as an only child as she was never there and I don’t feel it impacted me. You know what is right for your family xx #coolmumclub

  12. Really interesting read, and at a good time for me as we have one child at the moment and are considering whether to have another. She has lots of cousins and we’re out and about a lot, so certainly trying to focus on whether we want another and it’s right for us, rather than worrying too much about her being an only child. #CoolMumClub

  13. This is so refreshing to read. Baby Lighty is likely to be an only child too. One of the reasons is that Mr Lighty has a terrible relationship with his sister. Having a sibling unfortunately doesn’t guarantee you a friend. Thanks for hosting #coolmumclub xxx

  14. We’ve decided to stop at one as well and I do get the odd wobble about it. I’ve definitely had people imply that it’s unkind not to give D a sibling, but really, the only reason I would have to do so is to give her a playmate. Personally, I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to bring a child into the world, and we’re happy with it just being the three of us. Like you though, I do feel an added responsibility to make sure she has opportunities to make friends and nurture those relationships. Thanks for easing some of my doubts! #CoolMumClub

  15. I think it’s a really outdated viewpoint and you have to accept that some people aren’t able to have a second child even if they wanted to for a variety of reasons. And some don’t want to. I was definitely ‘One and done’ after my son but then Hubby persuaded me otherwise. Obviously I’m very happy we now have two but I don’t think I would have been less happy to have just one child. #coolmumclub

  16. I was an only child, and while I did have lonely moments (usually when it was raining and I couldn’t go out with my friends next door!) I also had lots of attention.

    My son was an only child for 5 years, and sometimes he misses it. I actually think in someways he can be lonelier now. Mummy Michael dates are certainly more special! There’s no right answer, we all do our best with the family we have! #CoolMumClub

  17. Every family us different and that’s ok! Whether you have one, two, more or no children, it has to be about choice doesn’t it? I have taught many, many children and some are naturally more selfish than others and it is more about temperament than how many siblings they have! I was a terribly self centred child and I was one of 6! I’m sure your daughter will grow up to be a lovely person. #coolmumclub

  18. If you ever doubt it come and watch my two girls championing the selfish trait lol! One size never fits all, and with such a cool Mum little E is never going to be anything other than a epically cool kid x
    Thanks for your #coolmumclub cohost love Talya!

  19. It sounds to me like your little girl is having a ball! Well loved, lots of stimulation and plenty of interaction. What more could she ask for? Even children with siblings can feel lonely as you say from your own experience. My son and daughter are four years apart and aside from the age gap the difference in their sex means they have different interests too which is why friends are so important to fill those gaps that a sibling can’t. You have done a great job of disproving this quite frankly old-fashioned theory. Great post. #coolmumclub

  20. I dont think an only child is a lonely child especially if they have cousins and friends around them. Ben will spend two years as an only child before the twins appear and even with a lack of friends (im a play group hater) and cousins are doted all over the UK, it makes it hard for him to socialise, but he has a lot of company from adult relatives and loves the attention!
    He is by no means lonely and if he continued to be an only child I doubt it would change, especially once nursery and school starts! #coolmumclub

  21. I know people who had no siblings and wish they had and those that have siblings and are not close to them at all. I really don’t know what the answer is. Great to read that there are many benefits though. #coolmumclub

  22. I originally thought I would only have 1 child as Matthew was ‘unexpected’ 😉 He might have been happier on his own as the younger 2 drive him crazy! They are all devoted to each other though. I think there are pros and cons for only children versus multiple children and it all depends on the family circumstances #coolmumclub

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