I’ve heard a lot of advice about children over the years. Mostly, I’ve heard that our choice to have one child is a mistake. Friends have actually said to me that she will be lonely, and have gone so far to say she will be alone in this world. Huh? Oh, the list of grievances others have regarding our choice goes on as well.
“You’ll change your mind. You’ll see.”
“You can’t have just one.”
“You’ll ruin her.”
I’ve always said to myself in response that these declarations are some long held belief passed down throughout history. Interested, I recently did a bit of research on the origin of these only child myths. What I found was fascinating.
Granville Stanley Hall was a psychologist during the late 1800s focused on childhood development and evolutionary theory. What put him on the map regarding only children was a study he oversaw in 1896 titled Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children which stated that only children were oddballs, and he even went so far to say that “being an only child is a disease in itself.” Wow. No wonder some folks have the view that having one child is such an abomination. While later psychologists tried to reverse this thinking, the belief stuck within many, and was even reinforced through popular TV shows and books in the 1980s and beyond. It was almost too easy to cast an only child as selfish, odd, aloof, spoiled, and generally off-putting.
Thankfully, Toni Falbo, a professor of educational psychology and sociology at the University of Texas in Austin has worked tirelessly to debunk the myths around only children. The end result? After 25+ years of research, she found that the personalities of only children were indistinguishable from that of their peers with siblings.
I will say, I can see where the beliefs about onlies develop, and stick. We are able to give everything we have to our daughter – I don’t mean things, I mean resources including time, energy, and attention. She gets it all. We don’t have to divide our resources which can lead some to believe our child is spoiled, entitled, and over-parented. Yes, only children tend to get more attention and nurturing, however, that does not translate into a child becoming a selfish human.
In the end, the decision on having a child is clearly very personal. For us, we knew we were complete once our daughter was born. It was plain as day. I have never regretted that choice. For others, having more than one child is fulfilling, and brings joy.
We all do what we can with what we have.