Only Child Syndrome: Myths and Truths


According to a study conducted by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) in 2011 implied that close to 10% of Indian households resolutely plan to have only one child. Either you are one or you know one who is an only child. In general, to describe the characteristics of only-children, people talk someone’s ear off through sweeping statements which are nothing but myths – overindulged, self-centred, spoon-fed, egotistical and selfish.

The humdrum conventional image of only-children came into existence in the 1800s. In the 19th century, E.W Bohannon from Clark University in Massachusetts studied about Peculiar and Exceptional Children and he gave a picture of children without siblings as excessively spoiled – the only child syndrome. And Bohannon colleagues agreed with his results and this conceptualisation has a hunch even today. 

To abolish only child syndrome researchers have conducted many studies in the last 100 years on this condition. Susan Newman, a social psychologist, she has been studying about “only-children” for two decades now and she is the mother of an only child. Also, she has written two books about the only-children parentage- “Parenting An Only Child: The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your Only and One” and “The Case For The Child: Your Essential Guide”. She speaks about the most common myths – spoiled, bossy and anti-social  by articulating a study – “only children are no different from other kids. Specifically, they’re not more spoiled, lonely, selfish, or overly dependent.” 

Psychologists believe that many factors are involved to shape a child’s character.

However, interrogators unveiled they are self-reliant, well-organized and ambitious. They receive their parents’ undivided attention and emotional support. The society has promoted this holistic approach without any evidence. We disapprove of individual differences but approve generalised theories.

Let us not carry the stereotypes and unlearn few myths, these heterodox interpretations may generate dissenting impressions. 

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