- - Friday, August 11, 2017


Being an only child brings with it varied reactions and accompanying inferences that suggest that an only child must be selfish, spoiled, self-centered and unable to interact well with people.

That’s the myth, and those are some of the stereotypes.

However, according to some psychologists and other authorities, such conclusions are not valid.

“Contrary to psychological folklore, only children do not appear to be less sociable or more neurotic than other children,” said Frank J. Salloway, a psychology professor at the University of California Berkley.

According to Toni Falbo, a researcher at the University of Texas, only children tend to have higher self-esteem, perform better in school and obtain more post-secondary education.  Ms. Falbo and a colleague examined hundreds of studies and discovered that only children have significantly higher intelligence and achievement.

“Growing up as an ‘only’ can be very empowering, creating very self-dedicated, strong willed individuals will push themselves hard to achieve what they want, said Carl Pickhordt, a psychologist and author of the book, “The Future of Your Only Child.”

Another expert, Lauren Sanders, a researcher and writer and an only child herself said, “Consider the data: in hundreds of studies during the past decades exploring 16 character traits including leadership, maturity, extroversion, flexibility, emotional stability and contentment, only children scored just as well as children with siblings.

Benita Fuchs, Suzanne Stein, Dr. Demetrios Chaconas and Lisa Cockerille all share one thing in common—  they are only children. They defy the myths associated with the “only child” label.                                                       

I enjoyed being an only child because I felt like I got the attention,” said Benita Fuchs of Lansdowne, Virginia.

However, she did not get everything she wanted because of family finances at the time. “I never owned a book. I always borrowed books.” As a child, she longed for a doll house that she never got. In adulthood, however, her desire was fulfilled when she had an elegant doll house custom made that is comprised of 15 rooms with needlepoint rugs, crystal chandeliers and wallpaper from England.

She also acquired the books she never could own as a child and currently has a personal library comprised of hundreds of books. “I always wanted books; now, I have a big collection,” Ms. Fuchs said.

Now herself the mother of an only child, Suzanne Stein, who is also an only child, Ms. Fuchs speaks proudly of her daughter, who is married to a physician and has two sons. “My daughter is very outgoing, very sociable,” Ms. Fuchs said.

Ms. Stein, who lives in Reston, Virginia, always wished she had brothers and sisters and admitted she was lonely growing up. “I had friends, played with dolls, and my mother and I were very close,” she said. “We did things together, and I did things with my parents. All the attention was on me.”

“I think there is a lot expected of an only child. The best is expected of you. As I got older, I got to be more interested in people. I think maturity plays a part. I’ve learned to become more ‘outgoing’, ” Ms. Stein said, adding that sh also thinks  friendships are very important.”

Like Ms. Stein, Dr. Demetrios Chaconas, a veterinarian in Mt. Airy, Maryland, also felt lonely as a child and admitted that higher expectations were placed on him. He matured quickly and explained he was mostly around adults growing up. “It came natural to me to interact with others,” he said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Lisa Cockerille, a victim services professional in Leesburg, Virginia, also defies the typical stereotype of an only child.   Exhibiting an outgoing personality, she demonstrates kindness, compassion and selflessness daily in her work with crime victims.

Ms. Cockerille has often been told that she does not act like an only child. “My parents definitely gave me a lot of attention, and I wasn’t wanting for much” she said. Like Ms. Stein, she has an elderly mother she often visits and assists with her needs.

Ms. Cockerille is married to her childhood sweetheart, and her 30th wedding anniversary is approaching. She has two grown children, and she treasures time spent with family.

These individuals and other only children have proven that they can be fully adjusted, socially adept and successful professionals.  Willard Scott, 83, a famous television and radio personality, is also an only child.  He, too, has shattered many myths associated with the only child status.  Perhaps he sums it up best when he said, “As an only child, I never felt insecure and always had total love.”

And, yes, the writer is yet another only child who debunks the myth.

Karen L. Bune is an adjunct professor at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, and a freelance writer.

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