One is the Loneliest Number, or Lone Wolf: Only-Child Syndrome Myths


Growing up, almost all of my friends had siblings. Some of them fought, and some of them got along. Some of them oscillated between fighting and getting along. To this day, when I tell people I’m an only child they have a reaction. Sometimes they say, “That makes sense.” What do they mean by that? I don’t think it’s always negative, but we definitely make assumptions about only children. I’ve outlined my thoughts on some of these assumptions below.  

1. The parents must…

Often we assume that the parents chose to have an only child for some specific reason, when that’s not always the case. Some folks run into fertility or birth issues, some suffer the death of a spouse, and others may have an only child because they lost another child or children. There are plenty of reasons for having an only child that are absolutely no one else’s business. If you have a friend with an only child and you’re curious about it, wait for them to open up to you.

2. Only children are selfish 

Yes, sometimes. But having siblings is only one way to learn about sharing and teamwork. Kids also learn to work and live with others through friendship, romantic relationships, sports, camp, and other activities. 

3. They can’t connect with kids their own age

This one has never made complete sense to me, because most siblings aren’t the same age. I did hang around adults when I was little, and as a result my pop culture references are dated. But most of my friends now are older than I am, so it evened out. The notion that people only socialize with folks of the same age range is weird. 

4. Only children can’t share memories with siblings

Well… this is something I think about. One day when my parents pass on I won’t have a sibling to call up and say, “Hey, remember when Mom dropped the Thanksgiving turkey on herself.” This might be one reason I stay in touch with friends I made in third grade. That, and the fact that I had some amazing childhood friends. I think it’s just as meaningful to swap memories with friends as it is to relive them with a sibling.

5. Only children won’t know how to parent multiple children 

How many of us plan to parent our children exactly like we were parented, anyway? I mean, aren’t we all kind of making it up as we go? Is that just me? Plus, only children probably have grandparents, friends, aunts, coworkers, and so on who can offer advice on raising multiple children. 

6. Only children are stubborn

This assumption is based off the idea that only children always get their way, so they approach life with that expectation. This depends on the way the child was raised, and other personality factors. You probably know plenty of stubborn people who aren’t only children. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stubborn, but I think marriage and motherhood have forced me to relax a bit. 

7. Only children are needy

All children are needy. That’s why we call parenting a job. Why I can’t remember the last time I ate a meal in peace, or watched a full show during the daytime, or read a book without having to review the previous chapter and then ask myself what month it was when I read said chapter. That’s why when I’m at work and I pee alone it feels like a mini spa day. I don’t know if that would somehow be less true if I had more children around, but if that’s a thing then feel free to send your kids to my house. 

What do you think? Are you an only child? Do you have an only child? Do you ever run into these stereotypes?


  1. I loved your take on being/having an only child. When I die, you can reminisce about all my poultry mishaps with Amy.

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