Oh, to be an only child


Economic pressure and changing cultural values have led more and more people to have only one child.

A big family no longer implies wealth, and research shows it doesn’t guarantee happiness. People are more inclined to put their own happiness and quality of life before having a large family, researchers say.

Many couples start a family only in their late thirties, allowing them to establish a career. When they eventually have a child the woman may be too old to have another. This doesn’t mean the child is deprived; experts say it’s been proved that only children are better achievers than children in bigger families.

The notion that only children are maladjusted, spoilt brats was mooted 120 years ago by American psychologist Granville Stanley Hall who claimed they could never be as well adjusted as other children. For years the claim went unchallenged but recent studies refute it.

There are few differences between only children and children in bigger families, Toni Falbo, an American educational psychologist, says. But the differences are significant because only children are generally more intelligent and higher achievers than children in bigger families because parents, irrespective of their income or profession, spend more time, energy and money on an only child.

Being the focus of their parents’ attention means only children achieve better results at school and develop a better self-image, social worker and school counselor Anne Cawood says.

‘‘Only children have many of the same traits as eldest children: they’re inclined to be more intense, perfectionist, sensitive and responsible than other children and usually have excellent language skills. That’s because they have their parents’ undivided attention.’’

Only children grow up faster because they spend more time in adult company – but this can also mean they find it harder to socialise with other kids.

However their parents are usually more relaxed because they don’t constantly have to play peacemaker or prevent jealousy among siblings.

Read the full article in the YOU of 12 August 2010

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