Psychologist Granville Stanley Hall once (wrongly) said that being an only child "is a disease in itself."
Only children are subject to a bad reputation since the day they make their singular entrance into the world. Many are labeled as "spoiled" or "attention-seeking," mostly due to centuries-old biases like Hall's that are based in personal opinion rather than solid research. And poor portrayals in pop culture don't help either. (Veruca Salt, anyone?)
But fear not, single kids! As evolution has come to prove, and as many people will tell you, it's not so bad being a "lonely only" -- and it's most certainly not a disease.
Here's what research actually has to say about being an only child:
You're not actually a brat.
Only children are all-too-familiar with the "only child syndrome" stereotype, or the idea that you're more self-centered because there's only one of you in the family. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. "The studies all show that only children are not spoiled," social psychologist Susan Newman, author of The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide, told WebMD. And your social life is safe, too: "They're no more lonely than other children, and they actually make as many friends as children with siblings," she said.
You might have a higher IQ.
Thank your lack of brothers and sisters for your SAT score. Research suggests only children may perform better academically. Additionally, an in-depth study of high school students found that those who were only children had better IQs on average -- particularly when it came to verbal skills.
You may be happier.
Forget the myth about only children being sad and lonely; their single status may actually make them more joyful in the long run. In a 2010 study on British children, researchers found that "sibling bullying" may contribute to unhappiness, and only children were the most contented overall, The Guardian reports.
You're wise beyond your years.
If you've ever been called an "old soul," there may be a good reason for it. Only children are more exposed to adult conversation and parental attention, making it likely you've learned advanced language skills and a breadth of knowledge at a younger age than others. Embrace it.
You were less likely to drink underage.
Gold star. In a study on behavior and birth order, researchers found that only children were the least likely to consume alcohol underage. And despite what popular teen films and high school stereotypes may have people believe, that's probably a good thing.
Your personality is different.
Research shows being an only child can inherently form who you are as a person -- and that's definitely not a bad thing. As Alexandra Schwartz writes in the New Yorker, your single status can inform how you navigate the world and yourself:
I’ve often attributed my best and worst qualities to being an only: the love of solitude and the fear of it, the itch to play the class clown and the sudden reticence that reads as aloofness, the debilitating tendency toward blinding self-criticism, the pleasure and discomfort of being detached from a given group -- a self-appointed observer, taking notes on the action as the action goes on.
You're in good company.
TV, movies and even the public arena are filled with well-adjusted and -- gasp! -- successful only children that defy the socially-awkward or stuck-up trope. Where there's a Veruca Salt there's also a Harry Potter, so to speak. And this isn't just in pop culture -- approximately 20 percent American families have only children, according to Newman. That's proof that being a "lonely only" isn't so lonely, after all.
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