Determining how large one’s family should be is a personal decision that every couple must make. And among the most controversial decisions in family planning – one that every and their brother seems to have an opinion about – is the choice to have an only child.
One dad recently stirred the proverbial pot by declaring that parents who choose to have just one child are selfish. Blogger Andrew Kardon writes at The Stir:
“Yes, it's your life, so do what you want. But remember this: you're doing a huge disservice to your child by not giving them a sibling… But my issues with the "only child" go much more deeper than just what you're not giving your kid. It's what happens to these siblingless children. They get pretty obnoxious and selfish. Every single person I've ever met who was an only child had more of a selfish nature than others. I can't blame the kids, though. When you only have one kid, you're going to spoil them rotten and make them think they're the center of the entire universe.”
Kardon also spouted his belief that onlies tend to have odd interactions with other children, writing:
“These kids also don't seem to know how to play well with other kids. Yes, they can get along, but there's always something a bit off with them.”
But, are these perceptions about only children still accurate – assuming they ever were? Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist and author of the book, The Case for The Only Child, blogs regularly about raising singletons and believes the stereotypes surrounding onlies are outdated. “Only children have been stereotyped and these stereotypes started over 100 years ago. And, like stereotypes with any ethnic or other group, they linger,” Newman told TODAY Moms. “They’re hard to get rid of. These ideas about onlies are antiquated and not consistent with what’s going on today.”
Newman noted that parents today are savvy about birth order and often take it into consideration with their parenting practices. Just as parents with three children take pains to make sure their middle child doesn’t feel squeezed out, parents of onlies take care to make sure that child has lots of socialization and opportunities to play with his or her peers.
Given some of Kardon’s rather inflammatory language, it’s unsurprising that his post stirred up plenty of reaction.
Many people pointed out that it’s not the number of children in a family that determines selfishness, but rather, the values parents instill in their kid(s). As one reader said:
“Let me just say that not all single children are spoiled rotten and selfish. You could not find a more selfish person than my sister and there are 3 of us. She had no problems throwing my bother or I to the wolves (our parents) anything that could be blamed on us was. I really believe how a child is raised depends on how the parents raise them.”
Also, while Kardon touts the benefits of a built-in playmate that a sibling can provide, many were quick to point out that siblings aren’t always friends – as kids or as adults. As one commenter noted:
“I have siblings, and I don't even talk to them. We have nothing in common, but DNA. I don't like them very much, to be honest. In fact, MOST people I know aren't close with their siblings.”
Still others questioned why the choice to have more than one child should have anything to do with the needs of that child.
“What's with this whole thinking that everything you do needs to be for your child?? That's why people are selfish. My son will never have any say in my reproductive choices, whether I have no more kids or five,” wrote one reader.
While Kardon touted the benefits of multiple children, others touted the benefits of choosing the “one and done” route. The time, attention, money and resources that don’t need to get divided, for starters. One poster wrote:
“There's lots of positives to having (or being) an only child. You can give your child so much more one-on-one attention. Finances are less of an issue so you can do more things and trips with them that would probably become prohibitively expensive with multiple kids. You can probably do more to help them with college or university than you could (financially) with multiple kids. Your child doesn't have to worry about living in their sibling's shadow (I know many adults still doing this years later as they did as children), being compared to their sibling, sibling rivalry (often physical), not having any privacy, etc. I'm not sure how much of a real 'learning' experience constantly having your stuff stolen and/or broken by your sibling really is,” stated one commenter.
How did you know what the right number of children was for your family?
Dana Macario is a Seattle-area mom with two kids, who was effectively raised as an only and believes that both onlies and multiples seem to have their pros and cons.