It is a common misconception that only children (sometimes referred to as “onlies”) are spoiled, selfish, and rotten little brats. To most people it makes perfect sense, and it may even be somewhat logical. When parents have only one child, that child gets all the attention, all the toys, all the affection, and all the coolest birthday presents; they don’t even have any competition selecting which cartoons they are going to watch on Saturday morning. How could they not be self-centered? There has been tremendous growth in the number of single child family units in the past five to ten years. There has also been a fair amount of research looking into whether only children are indeed spoiled and selfish compared to other children with siblings. It appears that they are not. Mancillas (2006) published a very good review article on the topic in the Journal of Counseling and Development stating, “There is clearly a need to correct the negative bias and stereotypes about only children, not only to benefit children and families but to ensure that mental health professionals, researchers, educators, and policy makers articulate an accurate understanding of only children and their families ….” Many children are spoiled and bossy at various times in their lives. I’m a father of three children, and I have to say that it has been my experience that every child (at least mine—and all my friends’ children) at some point thinks everything should revolve around them. This commonly happens in a child’s early years, but I’ve also heard that this can be the case during the teenage years as well, as shocking as that may sound. Everything I’ve ever read and been taught suggests that how a child acts and behaves is much more a result of parenting style than number of siblings or birth order.
Mancillas, A. Challenging the stereotypes about only children: A review of the literature and implications for practice. Journal of Counseling and Development (2006), Vol 84, pp. 268-275.