Home Children's Health Guide Only Child Depression: Does having no siblings affect mental health?     

Only Child Depression: Does having no siblings affect mental health?     

by Dr Prem Community Writer
worried about only child depression

It’s a dilemma which many parents face today, whether to have a single child or more than one. Whether it’s a choice that you make or is made for you, if you have an only child, you definitely think whether your only child will turn out to be as well-adjusted as those with a sibling or more than one sibling.

Only Child DepressionYou feel that they should have someone to play with, share things with to understand give and take, and also that they wouldn’t be alone, they would have someone to play with. If you’re worried about only child depression, here are a few scientific findings which might reassure you:

Is only child depression widespread?

only child syndromeIt’s not only depression, but there are many negative behaviors and difficulties associated with single children, traditionally. The behaviors which are attributed to the ‘only child syndrome’, cannot be applied for all children according to some new research.

Are only children selfish and lonely?

sharingIf toddlers who are only children, have difficulty sharing, for example, it is considered that they are not able to share because of  having no siblings. But this is far from the truth, as any parent knows that toddlers, whether they have siblings or not, have a problem sharing. In fact, sometimes, they can be even more possessive if they have many siblings.

Besides, parents of one child obsess about their children being susceptible to ‘only child depression’, and thus try to arrange play dates for them, send them to daycare or have them join many different activities so that they can meet other children. In fact, children who don’t have siblings make more effort to be social, as they want children to play with. Therefore, they are not more spoiled or aggressive than other children.

An only child should not be considered to be a maladjusted child, and it would be quite wrong to do so. Not only that, only children of a single parent can also be quite successful, instead of suffering from only child depression.  For example, Franklin Roosevelt, the longest serving US President who grew up with his mother, who doted on him. So maybe, we should be better parents and set good examples so that one child or many grows up happy and well-adjusted.

Only children are happier

sibling-rivalryResearchers have found that having no siblings can be a good thing! Sibling rivalry causes children to be unhappy. But only children tend to be happier as they do not compete/fight with their siblings. They get the complete attention of their parent/s, so are more emotionally secure and happy.

They get better grades

single child get better gradesIf you’re worried that your  child will not do well in school, put those worries to rest. It seems that only children do well academically. It’s because parents pay more attention to them, help them and also have more educational materials available. You too must be saving up for college and have the resources to empower your child academically.

They are very sensitive

sensitive kid Only children are more sensitive than others. They are self-sensitive as they do not have any other children to tease them. They can easily view people as being angry, critical, sarcastic or distant with them, even though it may not be the case.

The positive side of being sensitive is that they are sensitive towards the feelings of others and try not to hurt others in any way.

They are not lonely

good friend circleOnly children might have a difficult time to make friends with other children when they are young,  as they have lower social skills. But as they grow up, their social skills improve to a much greater degree and are at par with other children by the time they reach fifth grade. So they have as good a friend circle as other children. This would help keep them from being lonely and save them from only child depression.

Children who have siblings can be depressed

harmony-among-Step-SiblingsChildren who have one or more siblings can be depressed or lonely too. All children are different and it does not mean that they will get along just because they are brother and sister. One may be outgoing and the other an introvert, one may love books and the other may not like anything to do with them!

So even if a child has one or more siblings, he/she may be quite lonely and depressed too, though they may be surrounded by people all the time, as they do not have shared interests.

They are nicer than others

single children are nicer than othersIf you’re a single parent worrying whether your child is growing up right, and not a brat, don’t worry. Social psychologists say that only children are actually nicer as they want to make friends and so do not mind going with the choices of their peers, rather than insisting on their own choice of play. They want to feel included and thus are nicer to other children.

A study done in 1986 by Toni Falbo, a Texas University psychologist, found that the children’s characteristics do not depend on whether they have siblings or not.

They have a strong relationship with their parents

strong relationship with their parentsAccording to the same study, i.e. Toni Falbo’s study, children who do not have siblings, have strong bonds with their parents. A German study too found that only children had a positive relationship with their parent/s, and could also open up to their parents regarding the issues that were important to them.

Imaginary friends might be good for them

Imaginary friends might be goodWhen children do not have brothers and sisters, they may invent imaginary friends – that’s how Winnie the Pooh was born after all! Every child wants a playmate who would share everything with them, their joys and their sorrows. There is no need to be concerned if your child has an imaginary friend –  a study found that playing with imaginary friends is quite healthy, and it enhances social skills in only children, and keeps them from being a maladjusted child.

Only children have the same chances to be depressed and lonely as others. It is not true that they feel lonely due to the lack of siblings. This can be resolved by having friends of the same age, and as the sole attention getters of their parents, they do well in many aspects of life.

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