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Old 09-01-2012, 09:13 AM
Location: San Antonio, TX, USA
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I am an only child and there are some advantages/disadvantages as mentioned. I grew up working class with mom and dad but their relationship is traditional hispanic with not much warmness there. I really wanted to work in the summers in high school I could buy something I wanted but I also saved some of my earnings. Didn't babysit as a side job either, always worked in a office setting starting off as a high school intern. I didn't have to stay at home taking care of younger brothers or sisters as other classmates did. I didn't have extended family around so there was only mom and dad, really. Now that I'm married, it's the husband and I with our dog with no children. It feels natural to me not to have children. We have a 10 year niece we see on occasion that we (including brother in law; niece's dad) just found out about so we weren't around when she was a baby. Other brother in law lives 3 hours away and has 2 children we never see. How strong the family ties are shapes an only child. I may bring a different perspective than an only child who had strong family ties.
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Old 09-01-2012, 09:45 AM
Location: Kansas
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It is not that simple. Both genetics and nurture are always in play in parenting despite the number of children. We had two families in the town where I grew up that had 17 children and I believe they both did better with their children than many with less. Someone trying to make a general rule about how many children you could provide for, both psychologically and physically would probably say this would usually not be the case. 1 or 17? Genetics and nurture.
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Old 09-01-2012, 11:35 AM
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I would agree with those people who have pointed out that being an only child does not always mean being alone, and this, I think, changes the experience a great deal.

My own experience was that being an only child not only meant that you did not learn to share and cooperate as early as kids with siblings, but that you were for better - and often for worse - the sole focus of your parents' attention. And being the only child meant that you could easily become a pawn in their own personal disagreements. By the time I was nine and ten there was nothing in the world I wanted more than the company of siblings.

My parents almost always took me to all adult gatherings they attended from a very early age, and allowed me to stay at gatherings they gave at home. The vast majority of the time I was the only child present. I was quiet and unobtrusive, and my presence created zero problems -- of course not! I was totally absorbed by the goings on of grownups. And I learned at a very, very early age that adults were duplicitous with each other, and that their facial appearances and body language often betrayed feelings that were not being articulated. By the time I was a teenager and working a large part of the time I found adults as transparent as glass and as easy to read as billboards.

One result of this bizarre socialization process was that I lost interest in my peers, and in my "interior life" I was rapidly becoming a loner. Nevertheless, I had a largely normal secondary school life and did well, but I found being in adult company far more fascinating. It seems quite clear to me that by the time I had reached high school I felt that other kids had "slots" in life where they fit, that I did not have a "slot" in which I belonged. And I have never forgotten that I located that difference in the fact that I had no brothers and sisters.

I went to a large university with a student body of very mixed, and often conflicting, origins; and the college social life was very stratified and status oriented. For the first year I was quite intimidated and felt constantly out of place. I worked that summer in a factory with all adults, I was the only eighteen year old "kid" in the place, but I fit in like a hand in a glove. When I returned to univesity I had zero interest in my fellow undergrads as friends and I had a thorough-going contempt for what I saw as the silly pretentions of college social life and some of the attempts to ape sophisticated adult lifestyles.

For the next three years I actively cultivated friendships with grad students and even instructors, and as a result of these contacts my social life gravitated from the campus to the city. And this was the pattern for the rest of my life: I have spent very little time with people who would have been expected to be my peers, and I tended to do far better as a worker when I could shoulder an entire project/burden/task rather than having to adust my efforts in a group endeavor. While being rather lazy as far as feeling a need to suceed is concerned and preferring to remain in a spot where I was in relative control of the show, when forced to change by circumstances or abject boredom I had almost no emotional problem burning bridges and making radical changes.

I have never felt that I could pick up on the fact that someone else was an only child, though.

On the other hand, two of my three closest friends at the present time were only children. And I know that they seem to have gone through a similar process of splitting off from their peers, and in both cases they pursued professions that allowed them to work alone or have control, and both have a life history of rather radical changes in their personal and professional lives.
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Old 09-01-2012, 11:39 PM
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I agree with previous posters- there are too many other factors to consider. I'm an only child. I always desperately wanted siblings and to this day I wish I had at least one. My parents are great, but I dislike being the center of attention. I couldn't get away with anything with no one else to distract them! I would say from an early age I was always more mature than my same age peers. This was due to spending a great deal of time with adults. I was the only child in my extended family too (my parents' siblings didn't have children). We didn't move to a neighborhood with other kids until I was around 10, and even then they were all a few years younger than me so I didn't always have other kids to play with. I certainly could be "bossy" with friends as well, but this stems from being more mature. In my house, if you were playing a game, you sat down and played it through. You didn't quit because you were losing or lose interest and start doing something else. When I'd go to a friend's house and they'd topple a game over because they were losing (since they typically played with other children and not adults) I was horrified. I've always had a long attention span too, again with spending my time with adults- you just didn't stop an activity after being bored with 2-3 minutes later. I am a shy person and I think that does have something to do with not having a lot of kids around when I was younger. We were active in church and my parents tried to get me out with other kids a lot before I was in school, but I just wasn't as outgoing as most other kids. It's hard to say though rather that's part of my personality or truly stems from being an only child. As an adult, I find that I don't mind spending time alone and in fact crave my "alone time" whereas other people crave being with company constantly. I don't really mind that it's Saturday and I'm just at home by myself. I am comfortable being alone and can entertain myself!

As far as "sharing" or being "spoiled" I think that has way more to do with upbringing than having siblings. My parents went out of their way to make sure I wasn't "spoiled." I chuckled at the earlier post about an only child getting whatever dinner he wanted- in my house, it was also eat the prepared dinner or starve. Many of my friends growing up (with siblings) didn't understand that concept at all. When playing in the neighborhood I'd complain about dinner (picky eater) and they'd say, "Oh, what are you going to have then?" as if my mom were going to make me something else. No way did that EVER happen, nor would I have ever even thought to ask or expect it. I didn't have any more toys or other "stuff" than anyone else. When I was in HS I had a job and paid for anything I wanted (clothes, etc. ) or any social outings. I had a friend with two siblings that got an "allowance" from her parents all the way through college, even after she obviously had her own part time job. So much depends on the parents and how they raise their kids, which I think is a bigger factor than only children vs. siblings.
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Old 09-02-2012, 03:14 AM
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I can tell the baby male of the family coming a mile away.
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Old 09-02-2012, 06:16 AM
Location: Elsewhere
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Originally Posted by KathrynAragon View Post
It depends entirely on the total picture of how they are raised.

For instance, my dad is an only child - but he was raised in a very large extended family with lots of cousins around all the time. Plus he was raised by a single mother who had to work (which is one reason he was around so many cousins - child care from other family members). So he doesn't have a lot of the stereotypical traits people associate with only children.

Some of the stereotypes on here are just silly. You either grow up a latch-key child or you are raised by strangers?

My daughter is an only child. She was raised in a four-generation household with a mother, great-grandmother, grandparents, an uncle, and a cousin who came on weekends. In addition, she has a father that she would see regularly, and he has a long-term girlfriend with adult children and grandchildren (we divorced when she was around 8).

She does have some only-child symptoms, and we usually point them out in humor. For example, she is renting an apartment with two roommates this year at college instead of living in the dorm. Because she got a summer job, she lived in the apartment by herself all summer. The first day last week that one of her roommates moved in, she was all bent out of shape because he put his dishes in what she had designated as HER snack cabinet. We laughed at her over this, and she could laugh at herself, too.
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Old 09-03-2012, 12:28 PM
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I am an "only", and I have noticed a distinct disadvantage in communication skills. I just don't "see" non verbal communication as quickly as peers who have siblings. I am more isolated, and always have been. Being part of a group has never been a strong point for me. I see my friend, who is the youngest of 12 children have far more advanced social skills than me. Things that I struggled to learn about fitting in, and socializing are natural to him. I don't think this is just individual differences. On the plus side of being an only, family ties are less meaningful to me, I have ties to my kids..but not a large extended group. I am more self reliant and less concerned with competing with anyone.
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Old 09-03-2012, 02:07 PM
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I am an only child as well. From age 8 to 18 we lived on the edge of a National Forest and the closest kids my age were a half mile away and the nearest town was a 9 mile bike ride. I learned to be very self-sufficient at a young age and learned to be alone (both parents worked) from early on. I would spend hours hiking, exploring and fishing by myself. Now, I can't imagine my own son going off on his own at 10 years old to a lake four miles away to spend the day fishing and swimming...but that's what I did and had a blast doing it. There is a photo of me at 12 years old with a 13 year old friend, both of us have backpacks on and we're about to go on a 3 day hike back into the mountains...no cell phone, no compass, no map of where we're going...just a general direction to a campground 15 miles away. The backpacks had sleeping bags, toiletries, some canned chili, some peanut butter, bread and some water. I can't imagine what was going on in my parents heads as they took the picture. As I recall, the hiking trip was a huge success. Being an only child has made me independent, quiet (my favorite expression is I have two ears and one mouth and strive to listen twice as much as I speak), self sufficient, a wallflower rather than a participant and enjoy my own company.

Today, I manage 50 people, have a 20 year old son and am a single-full time father for the last 18 years. I have a very busy life, and I absolutely treasure my alone time when I can clear my head and be by myself. During those infrequent times of solitude, I channel that inner child, alone on a grassy shore of clear blue lake, sun on my back, a good book and sandwich in wax paper at my side...casting in a worm, a mourning dove cooing nearby...hoping that monster bass swims by and takes a shine to my tasty worm. Good times!
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Old 09-03-2012, 07:54 PM
Location: Oakland, CA
28,226 posts, read 36,876,599 times
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Originally Posted by cpg35223 View Post
tend to have more of a self-centered attitude, making it harder for them to deal with other people with different desires. This is chiefly because they were the center of the family's life growing up.
I think the main differences are related to this self-centeredness. Sharing and compromising tend to be harder for only children. They put their needs first, because it isn't something they had to adjust expectations on when growing up.
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Old 09-05-2012, 01:20 PM
Location: Colorado
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I grew up an only child of two highly dysfunctional and über-controlling parents who used guilt, lies and intimidation to get what they wanted. I absolutely admit that I am selfish - because I had to be. It was the only way I could establish an identity or life of my own. I also have a ridiculous level of guilt about anything and everything that happens in my life. If I make a mistake at work I obsess about it for days. If I do or say something rude or mean, I completely freak out until I've apologised so many times the other person never wants to hear from me again.

Am I spoiled? Yes, certainly. But the counter-argument is that I was/am the ONLY target for all my parents' ambitions, spite, neediness, affection, rage, disappointment, approval, etc. It's a heavy load sometimes.

It is frankly rather silly to make blanket statements about people based on so many variables. Not every only child is self-centred or socially inept and not every child with siblings is a better person simply because of that.
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