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Abstract

Being an only child is generally considered to be a disadvantage. Absence of siblings is thought to involve the deprivation of critical learning experiences, while the exclusive attention of parents is said to result in overindulgence and overprotection. According to such beliefs, only children develop into selfish, maladjusted and unhappy adults. Various empirical studies have contradicted these beliefs, at least where American adults are concerned. The present study considers adolescent singletons in the Netherlands. It examines the related claims that only children have a less happy youth because they are pressed into adult thinking and behavior too early and that they stand out as "little eggheads"--good at school, but not very sportsmanlike, and unpopular among their peers. Data were gathered by means of questionnaires administered to 2,511 secondary schoolchildren. The only children in this sample neither appeared to be less happy nor was their global self-esteem any lower. The "little egghead" hypothesis was only partly confirmed. Only children feel themselves to be less proficient in sports. However, they do not consider themselves better in school or less popular among peers.
ABSTRACT
Being an only child is generally considered to be a disadvantage. Absence of siblings is thought
to involve the deprivation of critical learning experiences, while the exclusive attention of
parents is said to result in overindulgence and overprotection. According to such beliefs, only
children develop into selfish, maladjusted and unhappy adults. Various empirical studies have
contradicted these beliefs, at least where American adults are concerned. The present study
considers adolescent singletons in the Netherlands. It examines the related claims that only
children have a less happy youth because they are pressed into adult thinking and behavior too
early and that they stand out as "little eggheads"; ;good at school, but not very sportsmanlike,
and unpopular among their peers. Data were gathered by means of questionnaires administered
to 2,511 secondary schoolchildren. The only children in this sample neither appeared to be less
happy nor was their global self-esteem any lower. The "little egghead" hypothesis was only
partly confirmed. Only children feel themselves to be less proficient in sports. However, they do
not consider themselves better in school or less popular among peers.
1 INTRODUCTION
Few people consider a one-child family ideal. A world survey found only 3% in favor of this
option in developing countries and about 5% in the developed Western nations ("Le Monde
Entier," 1977). Nevertheless, many children grow up without siblings: in the developing
countries about 7%, and in the developed, more than 15%. The rate of only children is
particularly high in the communist countries; e.g., in China, 21% (Chen, 1986), and in Hungary,
27% (Poston & Mei-Yu-Yu, 1985). The numbers are growing rapidly. In the United States the
proportion of wives expecting to have just one child rose from 7% in 1960 to 11% in 1970
(Moore & O'Connel, 1978). This situation raises two questions: Why do so few people want
only one child, and why do so many have just one?
One of the main reasons so few people opt for having only one child is that it is widely believed
that children do not flourish without siblings. It is thought to render them lonely and to deprive
them of opportunities for developing social skills, with the exclusive attention of their parents
giving rise to overindulgence and overprotection. Not only is it thought that this results in an
unhappy childhood, but in maladjustment--that only children develop into selfish, isolated, and
discontented adults. These beliefs are firmly rooted in public opinion, even in countries where
the prevalence of only children is high. Two out of every three Americans consider being an
only child a disadvantage, and this percentage has changed little in the last few decades (76% in
P.O.B. 1738 3000 DR Rotterdam, Netherlands. www2.eur.nl/fsw/research/veenhoven
Correspondence to: Prof. Dr. Ruut Veenhoven Erasmus University Rotterdam Faculty of Social Sciences
THE WELL-BEING OF ONLY CHILDREN
Ruut Veenhoven and Maykel Verkuyten
In: Adolescence, Vol.24 No.93, spring 1989, pp. 155-166
1956, 67% in 1977). When asked what disadvantage they have in mind, most Americans
mention character: only children are depicted as self-centered, domineering, anxious, and
quarrelsome (Blake, 1981). Most Chinese expect personality disadvantages as well (Chen,
1986).
There are several reasons why the occurrence of one-child families is nevertheless great and
growing. In the first place, having only one child allows the mother more opportunity to work
outside the home. Second, many parents fail to have the desired number of two or three children
because of premature marital breakup, in particular because of divorce. One in three only
children in the United States lives in a broken home, as compared to the one in five average
(Blake, 1981). Third, infertility sometimes precludes the birth of additional children. The rate of
secondary infertility has risen somewhat during the last few decades; e.g., as a result of earlier
sexual activity and a delay of the first birth. China represents a special case, where restriction to
one child is more or less mandated by the government in order to limit the population.
The wide prevalence of such limitation in spite of wide rejection is not unproblematic. It may
have several harmful effects. First, it means that one in every twelve children born today is
regarded with some pity and distrust. Second, the negative attitude toward singletons will
probably hurt the millions of parents who--more or less consciously --settled for having only one
child. It can leave them with a sense of guilt, which may complicate the relationship with their
child. Third, the negative view about only children might induce some parents to have more
children than they in fact want. The desire to avoid having only one child is actually a major
reason American parents mention for having a second child (Solomon, Clare, & Westoff, 1956).
This is likely to involve large-scale negative consequences for the well-being of both parents1
and children2 and to contribute to overpopulation.
In this light it is worth knowing whether only children are really at a disadvantage.
1.1 Earlier studies
Though few investigations have focused exclusively on the characteristics of only children, the
matter has figured in approximately 200 studies on family size and birth order. Several reviews
of these findings have appeared (Thompson, 1974; Falbo, 1977; Falbo & Polit, 1986; Polit,
Nuttal, & Nuttal, 1980). The reviewers unanimously reject the claim that only children are at a
disadvantage. On the contrary, they find evidence of small advantages in achievement and
satisfaction.
1.1.1 Studies among adults
Most studies concern adults and compare the majority who grew up with siblings with the
minority who grew up without. Most of them draw on specific populations and lack sufficient
control for spurious distortion. Yet recently, three well-controlled analyses have been made of
representative United States data sets (Claudy, Farrel, & Dayton, 1979; Blake, 1981; Glenn &
Hoppe, 1984). Adult singletons do not appear to be at any disadvantage. In fact, the few
differences that were found indicate the contrary. Adult only children appear slightly more
successful socially, having more prestigious jobs and marrying better educated partners. They
also appear to find somewhat more pleasure in life. These differences remain when the positive
effect of their higher class of origin is controlled. Contrary to the predicted lack of social skills,
adult only children appear neither more prone to divorce, nor to hold more guarded attitudes
toward other people. The most that can be said is that adult singletons spend somewhat less time
with friends and prefer smaller families.
Of course, these results cannot be considered to settle the matter. First, it is not certain that
similar results would be found outside the United States. The slight advantage of being an only
child may, for example, be restricted to cultures that value individualism. Unfortunately,
sufficiently sophisticated studies from other cultures are not yet available. Second, the studies
Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 2The well-being of only children
among adults do not imply that being an only child cannot be a disadvantage in youth. Folk
wisdom may be right in that children flourish more with siblings than without, though such
short-term handicaps for the only child may involve developmental advantages in the long run3.
1.1.2 Studies among youths
Studies of youths are not very abundant either, and also are largely American. The focus has
been on social and cognitive functioning. The results are in line with the above-mentioned
studies among adults. Only children appear consistently brighter; they score slightly higher on
intelligence tests and do better in school (e.g., Zajonc & Marcus, 1975; Claudy, Farrel, &
Dayton, 1979). The latter study also found only children to be more mature, more sensitive
socially, more fastidious and more cultured. Participating more in the life of adults, they are
more like little adults. On the other hand singletons appear somewhat less sociable, at least
according to self-reports. They did not differ from children with siblings in calmness,
impulsiveness, self-consciousness, drive, vigor or leadership.
Still, these results do not rule out the possibility that growing up as an only child is a significant
disadvantage. Only children may be bright, cultured, and mature, but still feel unhappy and
insecure. Being pressed albeit successfully into adult thinking and behavior, they could miss out
on some of the rewarding experiences of childhood. Living up to their elders' expectations could
set too high demands and estrange them from their peers. Low mood and self-doubt are likely to
result, as indicated in two studies. One of these investigated children in the first two years of life,
comparing firstborns who later acquired siblings with firstborns who remained alone. At three
months of age "only children to be" cried more and smiled less. However, at 12 and 24 months
no such differences remained (Feiring & Lewis, 1982). The other study concerned retrospective
appraisals of their childhood by homosexuals. Gay only children looked back on less happy
childhoods than did gays raised with siblings (Hogan, Kirchner, Hogan, & Fox, 1980). These
results suggest that the cognitive lead of only children is indeed bought at the expense of a lower
sense of well-being. Yet this cannot be proved since the studies involved draw on populations
that are too specific, lack a reliable indicator of well-being, and fail to check for spurious
distortions.
Another question is whether only children tend to be "one- sided"--their better intellectual
performance being counterbalanced by poorer development of other capabilities.
1.2 Research questions
The questions about enduring character disadvantages of only children are thus largely settled.
Only-child adults do not appear at a disadvantage, at least not in the United States. However,
several questions about possible short-term disadvantages are still open. Our knowledge about
the only child's youth is limited, particularly regarding the following two questions.
1.2.1 Less happy youth?
Is better school performance and greater adult success of only children bought at the cost of a
less happy youth? If only children tend to be forced into adult thinking and behavior too early,
i.e., they conform to a pattern, which does not really fit their development, they are likely to feel
less cheerful and to be less satisfied. The present study sought to determine if this is the case. If
constantly pressed to perform above their level of development, singletons should also reveal
lower self-esteem. Even though they may be brighter, more fastidious and more cultured than
other children, they obviously do not meet the adult standards for which they strive. At the same
time, they do not fully meet the demands of their peers either.
Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 3The well-being of only children
1.2.2 Little eggheads?
If not altogether unfavorable, the development of only children could be at least one-sided. They
could become little eggheads who do well in school and receive praise from parents and
teachers, but do less well in sports and are not very popular with their peers. The present study
examines this hypothesis by comparing selfconcepts of only children with others. If only
children tend to develop into little eggheads, their self-appraisals (real self) should be relatively
positive with regard to intellectual qualities, and relatively unfavorable in the realm of physical
and social performance. They are likely to expect to be viewed in this way by others as well
(social self), in particular by peers. It is not unlikely that they would adjust their standards
accordingly, rating intellectual qualities higher and performance in sports and with peers lower
(ideal self).
2 METHOD
2.1 Subjects
Data were gathered among pupils of 40 secondary schools in the Netherlands. All types of
secondary schools in the Netherlands were represented proportionally. Schools were selected in
all regions of the country. Classes within the schools were chosen at random, from which 2,511
students completed a questionnaire. Their ages were between 13 and 17 years; 54% were boys
and 46% girls. The number of only children in the sample was 280 (11%). Sex and age
distribution among the singletons did not differ from the sample as a whole.
2.2 Indicators
Two dimensions of happiness were assessed: satisfaction with life-as-a-whole and current mood.
The former was measured by means of Cantril's (1965) self-anchoring ten-step rating scale, the
top of which marks the best possible life one can imagine and the lowest step the worst.
Respondents indicate on which step their own life is now. This indicator is widely used in cross-
cultural research, and is well suited for children and adolescents because it does not involve
difficult words such as "happiness" or "satisfaction." Yet a limitation could be that it measures a
more or less cognitive appraisal which might not show emotional suffering to its full extent, the
evaluation being modified by values and comparisons. One also could doubt whether adolescents
are capable of evaluating life sufficiently. Therefore the more raw mood was assessed as well.
For this purpose the Affect-Balance &ale (Bradburn, 1969) was used, which involved 10 yes-no
questions on the occurrence of specific positive and negative feelings in the last few weeks.
Responses on this latter scale were reasonably homogeneous: Cronbach's alpha was .71. Global
self-esteem was measured by means of Rosenbergs (1965) Self-Esteem &ale, which involves 10
questions, each scored on a 5-step scale (originally 4 steps; a neutral category was added).
Cronbach's alpha was .69. Specific self-appraisals were assessed by questions on the following
four themes: looks, performance in sports, performance in school, and popularity with peers.
Each theme was scored on three dimensions: how important excellence in each area is
considered (ideal self), how the subject thinks others perceive his/her performance (social self),
and how the subject judges him/herself (real self).
3 RESULTS
3.1 Not less happy
ANOVA with Only Child x Social Milieu x Sex did not show a significant main effect for the
first factor (Scheme 1). Only-child adolescents appear to be no worse off than their
contemporaries with siblings. In fact, they showed slightly more life satisfaction, but reported
somewhat less pleasant affect. Neither of these differences is statistically significant, however.
Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 4The well-being of only children
Contrary to the results of earlier studies in the United States, being an only child does not appear
to be more advantageous for boys than for girls. ANOVA showed no two-way interaction effects
between only child and sex.
3.1.1 Advantage in social milieu does not veil a negative effect
As noted earlier, parents of only children tend to be better educated and enjoy higher than
average incomes. This advantage for singletons could compensate for the presumed disadvantage
of growing up without siblings. The observed absence of a difference in average well-being thus
could be misleading.
Yet the present study found that the fathers' occupational status was no higher among singletons.
So the absence of a difference in wellbeing cannot be attributed to a difference in social milieu.
In any case, parental status had little influence on perceived well-being; correlations with life
satisfaction and hedonic level were both .02. This holds both for only children and for those with
siblings. In present-day Dutch society, social class is not related to happiness of adults either
(Veenhoven, 1984).
3.1.2 Broken home background does not suppress a positive effect
Earlier investigations involved controls for family completeness in order to check whether
possible lower well-being of only children could be the spurious result of a greater incidence of
familial disruption in this category. In the case at hand, no lower well-being appeared. Hence the
question is not whether the first order averages inappropriately suggest a disadvantage of
growing up alone, but whether they fail to show its advantage to the full extent.
Broken homes indeed occur more frequently among the singletons under review here (27% as
compared to 15%). There are, however, no significant two-way interaction effects between only
child and broken homes (life satisfaction, F = 0.72, p > .10; hedonic affect, F = 0.79, p > .10).
Three-way interaction, with sex as a third factor, also shows no effects. This means that there is
no difference in this regard between boys and girls.
3.1.3 A working mother does not veil an advantage
Parents of only children are more likely to be involved in work outside the home. This applies to
mothers in particular, their wish to continue working being an important reason for having only
one child. As a result, singletons are more likely to be latchkey children and therefore could feel
more lonely and unhappy. With a lack of siblings, this condition could hurt even more. Such an
effect could then distort the view on the consequences of being an only child as such; it could
again hide an advantage of single-child status.
In fact, working mothers appeared no more frequently among the only children in this sample,
nor are working mothers associated with the lower well-being of the children. Indeed, the
children of working mothers report somewhat higher life satisfaction and hedonic level--both
singletons and nonsingletons, and female only children in particular.
Employment of the father is also associated with greater well-being of only children again,
mostly among girls. Female only children whose fathers are unemployed report lower life
satisfaction and feel more depressed. On the other hand, the unemployment of the father bears
almost no relation to the happiness of children with siblings.
3.2 No lower self-esteem
Only children do not differ from nonsingletons in the global appreciation of themselves (Scheme 1).
In fact, they show somewhat more self-esteem. As in the case of happiness, the lack of
difference remains after controlling for the occupational status of parents and a broken home
background. Specification by employment status of parents showed significantly higher global
self-esteem of female only children with a working mother (three-way interaction effects among
Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 5The well-being of only children
only child, sex, and working mother: F = 4.1, p < .05). Female only children with an unemployed
father, on the other hand, distinguish themselves from children with siblings by lower global
self-esteem (three-way interaction effect among only child, sex, and working father: F = 3.9, p <
.05. This latter pattern reflects the case of happiness.
3.3 Mixed difference in self-appraisal
No differences in ideal self conceptions appear, but there is a slight difference in the appraisal of
social self and a noticeable difference in real self appraisal (Scheme 2).
Ideal self
Contrary to the little egghead hypothesis, only children do not assign higher value to good
grades, popularity, and looks. Yet they do stand out in their lower evaluation of sports.
Social self
Only children also are less apt to think others rate them as good in sports. Not only do they
estimate their reputation with peers as lower, but they also are more likely to think that their
parents feel they are not great at sports. Yet they do not perceive themselves a~ having a better
reputation in school (with peers, parents, and teachers).
Real self
Opinions of the respondents themselves about the four qualities differ in two cases. Only
children are less satisfied with their looks than are nonsingletons and feel less able in sports.
There is no difference with regard to school performance and popularity.
4 DISCUSSION
This study rejects the hypothesis that the slightly better cognitive development of only children
is bought at the expense of their emotional well-being. Only children do not differ from
nonsingletons in respect to life satisfaction and hedonic level. Their global self-esteem also is not
lower, even though they rate their looks and sports abilities less high. This result is in line with
earlier studies among American adults which also failed to find evidence of lower well-being.
Even so, being an only child can be disadvantageous under certain conditions. The data suggest
that the unemployment of parents is one such condition. Female only children, at least, report
less life satisfaction and lower hedonic level and self-esteem when their fathers do not work,
while male only children and children with siblings show very little such difference. This could
be interpreted as partial support for the view that only children tend to be overprotected.
Continuous surveillance, combined with less freedom for girls, could result in a smothering
family climate. The effect of unemployment of father is greater than nonemployment of mother,
possibly because unemployment among males tends to be more closely linked with psychological
problems. If true, this still implies that only children are more vulnerable to parental pathology
than are children with siblings.
Several of the previously mentioned studies of American adults found male only children to be
more successful and happy as compared to children with siblings than were female only
children. Hence Blake concluded that males have a greater advantage in being only children. The
present study showed no such difference among Dutch adolescents. However, the above analysis
of the relation between an only child's well-being and parental employment does indeed suggest
that girls may be more vulnerable to the disadvantages of being an only child.
The data provide partial support for the notion that only children's development nevertheless
involves some one-sidedness. The little egghead hypothesis is confirmed in that only children are
less involved in sports and feel less competent at it, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of
Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 6The well-being of only children
others. Yet the hypothesis is not confirmed where school performance and popularity are
concerned. Only children do not think they do better in school, do not place less value on
popularity, or perceive their actual popularity as being lower. What is puzzling is that only
children rate their looks as lower. This finding would make sense if they also felt less popular,
which might have made them more anxious about their looks. Moreover, this explanation would
presume that appearance stands higher in the self-ideals of only children, which is not the case
either.
5 CONCLUSION
Among Dutch adolescents, being an only child does not involve greater risk of having an unhappy
youth. On average, the singletons in this study appeared to be no less happy or self-accepting.
Still, it is possible that only children are at a disadvantage under specific conditions.The results
indicate that unemployment of parents is one such condition for girls, and there is only partial
support for the claim that only children tend to become little eggheads.
Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 7 The well-being of only children
Scheme 1
Well-being among only children and children with siblings
Average scores
only children children
N=280 N=2231
life satisfaciton 7.5 7.3 2.96 >.05
mood level 1.6 1.7 0.80 >.10
global self-esteem 3.8 3.7 0.27 >.10
Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 8The well-being of only children
with siblings
F P
Ideal self
Looks 3.8 3.7 .48 >.10
Sport 3.1 3.4 2.52 <.01
Popularity 3.7 3.6 1.10 >.10
School 4.3 4.3 .53 >.10
Real self
Looks 5.0 5.8 2.64 <.01
Sport 3.2 3.5 2.80 <.01
Popularity .04 .01 .24 >.10
School -.09 -.01 .77 >.10
Social self
Sport mother 1.9 2.1 2.53 <.01
sport father 1.9 2.1 2.45 <.02
sport friends 1.8 1.9 2.01 <.05
sport classmates 1.6 1.8 2.43 <.02
School mother 1.8 1.8 .81 >.10
school father 1.8 1.8 .25 >.10
school friends 1.8 1.8 .83 >.10
school classmates 1.7 1.8 1.11 >.10
school teacher 1.6 1.6 .36 >.10
Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 9The well-being of only children
Scheme 2
Specific self-appraisals of only children and children with siblings
Average scores
only children children
N=280 N=2231
with siblings
F P
NOTES
1 Raising children is a demanding job, taking its toll on the parents' health and happiness (Veenhoven.1984).
2 Half-wanted children are more likely to meet with half-hearted acceptance by their parents, and are therefore
at greater risk of abuse and pathological development. This is shown in the ample literature on the con-
sequences of deprivation of parental affection (e.g., Dytrich, Matejcek, Schuller, David & Friedman. 1975:
Rohner 1980).
3 As long as no unmanageable hardships are involved, discomforts in one's childhood may even foster develop-
ment and thus result in later advantages. In this respect the situation of only children may be analogous
to that of children after divorce. There is no doubt that the latter are hurt by it, follow-up studies have shown
an increase in learning problems and psychosomatic complaints (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).
Yet in adulthood, children of divorcees do not appear to be less happy or more maladjusted than the average.
Apparently the distress is, in the long run, more or less compensated for by the positive effects of coping
with such a challenge.
Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 10 The well-being of only children
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Ruut Veenhoven & Maykel Verkuyten 12 The well-being of only children
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... The present's study results showed that sibling status predicted loneliness among adolescents, suggesting that adolescents without siblings experienced a lower level of loneliness than adolescents with siblings. The finding was inconsistent with previous studies that revealed adolescent non-only-children experience lower levels of loneliness than only-children [23,24]. A possible reason for this difference may be related to the degree of care they received from their families during COVID-19. ...
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Using data from a recent national survey of approximately 20,000 Chinese middle school students, we tested the difference in cognitive development between only-children and children with siblings using non-parametric matching method. We took advantage of the massive increase in involuntary only-child families in China under the one-child family planning policy (1979–2015) to reduce the bias introduced by the otherwise pervasive human tendency to avoid having only one child. Our average treatment effect for the treated estimates indicates no significant cognitive difference between only-children and children with siblings. Further subgroup analyses, however, suggest that such average effect estimates can conceal important population heterogeneities because the only-child effect on cognitive development changes drastically between subgroups of the same population. Among other potential moderating factors, birth order and gender play particularly important roles in this process.
... This was often, but not always, discussed in the context of their child being an only child, and accompanied by the hope that a network of same-donor offspring might provide support and comfort to their child in the future. Research from the broader parenting literature also attests to concerns amongst many parents about raising only-children, with siblings often positioned as providing children with the social skills and support necessary for optimal adjustment (Veenhoven and Verkuyten, 1989;Coan et al., 2018). Within the donor conception literature, recipient parents and donors in some family types have similarly been found to characterize embryo and sperm donation in terms of developing a network of extended family bonds (Goedeke et al., 2015;Frith et al., 2017;Widbom et al., 2021). ...
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Study question: How do parents understand and feel about identity-release egg donation? Summary answer: Almost one-third of mothers and fathers did not understand the identifiable nature of their egg donation; mothers expressed complex and sometimes difficult feelings about the prospect of future donor-child contact. What is known already: Identity-release egg donation has been the only treatment option available to patients wishing to pursue this route to parenthood in the UK since 2005. However, little is known about how well parents understand this legislation, and how they feel about potential donor-child contact. Study design, size, duration: This qualitative interview study included 61 mothers and 51 fathers whose 5-year-old children were conceived via identity-release egg donation. Interviews were conducted between April 2018 and December 2019. Participants/materials, setting, methods: Data are reported from phase two of a longitudinal study of families created using open-identity egg donation. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with mothers and fathers. The interviews contained a section on what parents understood about the identifiable nature of the donor. These data were analysed using qualitative content analysis. Mothers who understood the identifiable nature of their egg donation (n = 44) were then asked about their thoughts and feelings regarding the prospect of future donor-child contact. Mothers' narratives were analysed using thematic analysis. Main results and the role of chance: Almost one-third of parents (28% of mothers, n = 17; 31% of fathers, n = 16) did not understand the identifiable nature of their egg donation. Mothers' and fathers' misunderstandings about identity-release egg donation fell into two categories: (i) Unclear about identity-release and (ii) Belief that the donor is anonymous. Reflexive thematic analysis revealed that egg donation mothers' feelings about identity-release donation could be understood via three organizing themes: (i) identity-release as a threat, (ii) acceptance: it is what it is and (iii) embracing identity-release. The findings indicated that egg donation mothers utilized various strategies to manage their feelings about identity-release egg donation in day-to-day life, and each theme was associated with at least one coping strategy. Limitations, reasons for caution: Participants were predominantly from White, middle-class backgrounds. Further research with a more diverse sample is needed to improve generalizability. Wider implications of the findings: These findings indicate that parents would benefit from more comprehensive provision of information, both at time of treatment and following conception, to ensure they have fully understood the nature of the donation. Parents may also benefit from follow-up care to help manage any complex or difficult feelings about donor-child contact. Study funding/competing interest(s): This research was supported by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award [208013/Z/17/Z]. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. Trial registration number: N/A.
... Working mothers prefer single child, as shown in table 5, where 6.2% working mothers had single child as compared to 3.1% non-working mothers having single child. This finding is in accordance with other studies which state that single child give more freedom for the parents, especially to mothers, to fulfill their occupational milestones [7]. Apart from this, due to single child, mothers are freed from many, frequent, unplanned pregnancies with associated mortality and morbidity. ...
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The rise in single child families in developing nations is considered as a new trend in population. The prevalence study for single child in Puducherry has been done as a cross sectional study involving engineering students. Along with prevalence, which was found to be 9.3, associated factors that determine single child prevalence in society were analyzed. The factors emerged important among them were parents' education, especially females' education and mothers working status. Other factors like type of family (joint family and nuclear family) and area of resident (rural and urban) were not significantly associated with the prevalence of single child in the society.
... Negative stereotypes about OC mainly revolve around the parents' mode of upbringing and the lack of siblings. Generally, in OC families, these two factors have detrimental effects on the development of social behaviors (Veenhoven & Verkuyten, 1989). The belief is that the parents' mode of upbringing in single-child families might offer inflated parental attention and protection, which could result in self-centered behaviors (Fan et al., 1994). ...
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Negative stereotypes about only children (OC) have caused widespread concern. However, relatively little is known about the accuracy of these stereotypes, especially regarding altruistic behaviors. In Study 1 ( N = 337), participants rated the altruism of OC and non-only children (NOC) on three measurements on the basis of the participants’ perceptions. Results revealed that participants rated OC as less altruistic, and the stereotype primarily came from NOC raters. Results of Study 2 ( N = 391) did not reveal any difference between OC and NOC in altruism. In Study 3 ( N = 99), a social discounting task was applied to further investigate whether OC and NOC displayed different degrees of altruistic behavior toward various social distances. No differences were found among individuals at close or distant social distances. Ultimately, this research indicates that the negative stereotype regarding the altruistic behavior of OC is an incorrect prejudice.
... More recently, a Gallup poll (Saad, 2004) revealed that only three percent of American adults believed that one-child families are ideal. These negative views of only children and the one-child family have not only been prevalent in the United States but also in Europe (Laybourn, 1990;Veenhoven & Verkuyten, 1989), Korea (Doh & Falbo, 1999), and China (Wang & Fong, 2009). The traditional Confucian ideology that "the more children, the more blessing for the family" has circulated widely in East Asia for centuries (Bao, 2012, p. 83). ...
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Popular media has aroused concern that Chinese only children are growing up lonely owing to their lack of sibling interaction Mu et al. (2007). However, little research has been directed at determining whether Chinese adults believe in the only-child-as-lonely stereotype and whether Chinese only children actually suffer more loneliness than their peers with siblings. Three studies were conducted to examine belief in the only-child-as-lonely stereotype and determine whether only children report greater loneliness than children with siblings. With the first study, the prevalence of the only-child-as-lonely stereotype among young adults from six cities (Study 1, N = 588) was examined. The results showed that belief in this stereotypical perception was common among young Chinese adults, particularly those who had siblings. We then examined the validity of this stereotype by analyzing data from three samples, consisting of Chinese emerging adults (Study 2, N = 699) and late adolescents (Studies 3.1 and 3.2, N = 345 and 210, respectively). Results from Studies 2 and 3 consistently showed that, contrary to the stereotype, Chinese only children reported lower levels of loneliness than their counterparts with siblings. Additionally, open-ended responses from the adolescent participants in Study 3 provided hints about the situations that provoke their loneliness. The results are explained in terms of the two theoretical approaches to loneliness. In sum, our research suggests that belief in the loneliness of only children is widespread in Chinese society, but the evidence indicates that reports of loneliness are greater for those who grew up with siblings. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
... Falbo and Poston (1993) and Poston and Falbo (1990a, b) demonstrated in two studies that one-only children outscored children with In comparing one-only children between the United States and China, some researchers commented that "there appear to be more similarities than differences in the patterns, as well as in the predictors, of academic achievement of Chinese and U.S. School students" (Poston & Falbo, 1990a, b, p.450). This finding was also demonstrated in the Netherlands (Veenhoven & Verkuyten, 1989), and Korea (Doh & Falbo, 1999). According to the resource dilution model (Dowey 2011), parental resources that affect one's educational success are finite and will be diluted by the addition of siblings. ...
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In 2015, the “One Child Per Family” policy which had been in place for nearly 40 years was terminated in China. This policy has had a significant historical impact on the society. Comparing the populations of one-only children and children with siblings is an effective way to reflect on this policy. This study used data between 2014 and 2017 from the National Assessment Center for Education Quality in China. Samples with hundreds of thousands of 4th grade and 8th grade students were Meta-analyzed to reveal the significant large magnitude of differences in academic achievement between one-only children and children with siblings. These differences vary across several demographic group factors, such as subjects, grade years, Social Economic Status (SES), locations, and achievement levels. However, there are no significant gender differences between the two groups. With an increase in the number of one-child families in some Western countries, the finding would be very beneficial to learn about the strength and weakness of this family structure and also provides insights to schoolteachers and counselors.
... Working mothers prefer single child, as shown in table 5, where 6.2% working mothers had single child as compared to 3.1% non-working mothers having single child. This finding is in accordance with other studies which state that single child give more freedom for the parents, especially to mothers, to fulfill their occupational milestones [7]. Apart from this, due to single child, mothers are freed from many, frequent, unplanned pregnancies with associated mortality and morbidity. ...
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The rise in single child families in developing nations is considered as a new trend in population. The prevalence study for single child in Puducherry has been done as a cross sectional study involving engineering students. Along with prevalence, which was found to be 9.3, associated factors that determine single child prevalence in society were analyzed. The factors emerged important among them were parents' education, especially females' education and mothers working status. Other factors like type of family (joint family and nuclear family) and area of resident (rural and urban) were not significantly associated with the prevalence of single child in the society.
Chapter
Because childbearing has become more controlled, how many children people actually have has become increasingly dependent on how many children they want—especially in contexts where education is high, contraception is readily assessable, and where reproduction is considered a matter of individual choice. In this chapter, I therefore discuss fertility ideals and fertility intentions (general and personal), how fertility preferences are measured, how they have changed over time and vary across world regions, and the gap between preferred and actual fertility in richer and poorer countries.
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Did growing up as singletons (only-children) convince young adults born under China's one-child policy of the superiority of singleton status and therefore the desirability of not having more than one child? This article draws on interviews with 52 childless newlyweds in Dalian, China, to help answer this question. We found that far from convincing them of the superiority of singleton status, the feelings of loneliness experienced by singletons in childhood and adulthood have convinced most of them that it is better to have a sibling than to be a singleton and thus it is better to have two children instead of one. Moreover, interviewees who did have siblings tended to corroborate singletons’ beliefs about how valuable a sibling can be in both childhood and adulthood.
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Conducted 6 meta-analyses of 115 studies on only children (OCs) to evaluate the status of OCs. The meta-analyses focused on achievement, adjustment, character, intelligence, parent–child relationships, and sociability. Findings indicate that OCs were found to surpass all others except firstborns and people from 2-child families on achievement and intelligence. They also surpassed all non-OCs, especially people from families with 3 or more children, in character and they surpassed all non-OCs, especially those from large families, in the positivity of the parent–child relationship. Across all developmental outcomes, OCs were indistinguishable from firstborns and people from small families. Theories relating to OC deprivation and OC uniqueness were discredited by the results of the meta-analyses. The meta-analyses supported parent–child relationships as an important factor in producing the developmental outcomes attained by OCs, firstborns, and people from 2-child families. Studies included in the meta-analyses are appended. (63 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Describes a confluence model that explains the effects of birth order and family size on intelligence. Intellectual development within the family context is conceived of as depending on the cumulative effects of the intellectual environment, which consists primarily of the siblings' and parents' intelligence. Mutual influences, through time, on the intellectual development of the siblings are described by the growth parameter a. The confluence model predicts positive as well as negative effects of birth order, a necessarily negative effect of family size, and a handicap for the last born and the only child. The model explains several features of a large birth order study carried out on nearly 400,000 19 yr olds. Extensions of the confluence model to other social processes are discussed, along with the usefulness of the confluence model in explicating the emergence of individual differences in a social context. (39 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Being an only child is popularly regarded as a handicap. During the 1970s, analyses appeared showing an intellectual advantage for only children relative to those from most other family-size/birth-order statuses. As for whether only children are spoiled and maladjusted, research by Claudy, Farrell, and Dayton finds strikingly positive personality and adjustment values for single children, as well as clear intellectual superiority. The author's own analysis, using adults of all sibsizes in the General Social Survey, indicates that only children are educationally and occupationally achieving, count themselves happy and satisfied with important aspects of life, are not politically and socially alienated, do not have disruptive family lives, and are unlikely to require public assistance. Only children also prefer to have, and do have, smaller size families than do respondents from any other sibsize. The performance of only children belies the prejudice.
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Data from seven U. S. national surveys were used to estimate the effects of number of siblings on eight dimensions of psychological well-being among adult white males and white females. All of the statistically significant estimated effects of having siblings are negative, and most of these cannot be accounted for by the lower mean family incomes and amount of education of the persons with siblings. The evidence for negative effects is stronger for white males than for white females. The evidence from this and previous studies is generally inconsistent with the popular stereotype of the unhappy, maladjusted only child, but additional evidence is needed before the issue is considered closed.
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The recommended increase in the number of zero- and one-child families proposed as one means of reducing average family size in the United States does not satisfactorily confront such issues as cultural proscriptions concerning the only child, nor offer evidence that the types of families that would result are those in which positive psychological characteristics are most likely to emerge. The literature surveyed suggests that a negative stereotype concerning the only child does persist, but that the psychological characteristics assumed for the only child have not been reliably demonstrated. Neither is there irrefutable evidence concerning psychological characteristics associated with other family sizes and ordinal positions. Family size recommendations should reflect a greater understanding of the opposition to the only child and should be paralleled by intensive research activity directed at developing a more comprehensive body of knowledge concerning the psychological outcomes for children, adults, and the society which might be anticipated.
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'Compulsory childbearing has varied and sometimes unfavorable consequences for the subsequent life of the child.... The higher incidence of illness and hospitalization..., slightly poorer school marks and performance, somewhat worse integrationin the peer group--all point to a higher risk situation for the (unwanted) child and the family, as well as for society.... Boys born from unwanted pregnancies are more endangered in the development of their personalities than girls'.