Advantages and Disadvantages of Having One Child

Most couples who get married or decide to live together generally plan to have children. Several years ago, having big families was common and this was seen as an advantage. This was mainly because children began working at an early age to help provide for the family. But with the changing times and with the cost of living getting higher every single year, having a big family is no longer considered to be a practical option. In fact, more couples are now considering having only one child and some do not have any desire to become parents at all.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, by 1986, women aged 40 to 44 years, “were considerably more likely to have given birth to two children than three children (36% vs. 27%) or four or more children (19%). However, taken together, women were still more likely to have had three or more children than to have had two children (46% vs. 36%).

In recent years, “women were more likely to have had two children than three or more children ” a trend that was most marked in the most recent period (38% vs. 25% in 1996; 38% vs. 22% in 2006). These days, most families in Australia have two children. But the number of women who had given birth to a single child increased progressively from only 8% in 1981 to 13% in 2006.

The U.S. Census Bureau states that there are approximately 14 million only children in America today. This comprises 20% of the children's population compared to only 10% around fifty years ago.

Stigmas With Having An Only Child

Despite the fact that we live in this modern age however, there are certain stigmas that have been attached to an only child:

  • He/she is lonely.
  • He/she is self-centred.
  • He/she is a spoiled brat
  • He/she is selfish.
  • He/she always wants attention.
  • He/she has a greater tendency of playing with imaginary friends.
  • He/she has difficulty socialising.
  • He/she is more prone to get sick.

These characteristics however, are not always apparent in all cases of only children. But there are distinct advantages and disadvantages of having just one child:

Advantages of Having One Child

1. An only child gets very attached to his/her parents and has a great relationship with them.
2. An only child gets the best in everything ” material things and otherwise.
3. An only child gets his/her parents undivided attention.
4. An only child does not have to deal with other siblings
5. An only child does not have to compete with other siblings for his/her parents' attention.
6. An only child will not be compared (intentionally or not) with another sibling.
7. An only child is more independent.

Disadvantages of Having One Child

1. An only child may grow up lonely.
2. An only child has no one to grow up with.
3. An only child may get too much pressure from parents, to perform well or excel in school and other activities
4. The parents of an only child tend to be overprotective.
5. An only child may get bored of parental involvement
6. An only child may have a harder time making friends.
7. An only child may be pressure to have children in order to carry on the family name.
8. An only child may become burdened about being the sole caregivers of elderly parents.
9. An only child will never have the experience of having nephews and nieces.

While these advantages and disadvantages focus mainly on the child, the parents also benefit from having an only child while undergoing some negative emotions due to their decision to have only one child.

The most obvious benefit of having only one child for parents is ” they are able to give more to their child in terms of material things as well as their love and attention. But despite this fact, parents of only children these days still undergo some challenges:

  • Parents of only children get strange looks or rude remarks from people when they say they have only one child.
  • Family and friends tend to pressure them to have more children.
  • Parents of only children sometimes feel guilty for not giving their child a sibling.
  • Parents of only children are worried about their child being alone after they die.

Deciding to become a parent is already a major decision in itself. Planning on how many children to have is equally important. But whether you want to have one, two, three or more children ” you should always remember that each child that you raise entails having a set of responsibilities.

There are so many dysfunctional families these days because of broken relationships ” between couples and between parent and child. That is why it is imperative that parents are equipped to raise children.

Despite the wealth of information that we have at our fingertips however, there is no perfect way of raising a child. Even if you grow up in a loving family ” that is not a guarantee you will have the same success when it's your turn to raise your child. You can read all the books that you want and visit so many websites on the internet ” but nothing can totally prepare you for the actual experience of being a parent.

For new parents, perhaps it would be ideal to start off with just one child. Like any other experience, it is best to feel your way through this one. Even if you've read all the available material about parenting, you will learn much more.

For many parents these days, having the experience of parenting one child is enough for them and that is fine. For others however, they want to have more and that is okay too. But you always have to consider a few very important things:

  • Does your partner want to have another child?
  • Are you financially capable of raising another child?
  • Are you emotionally capable of caring for another child?
  • Are you physically capable of taking care of another child?

If you answered yes to all these questions, then you are ready to add another child to the family but if you hesitated on even one of these questions, think carefully. Remember, that the number of your children does not define who you are as a parent. What is important is that you raise your child to be a loving, respectful and responsible person.

Last Updated: February 21, 2015



  1. It would be nice if someone read actual research before writing an article about only children. All those old myths and stereotypes of the only child being lonely, maladjusted etc have been disproved time and time again! Also, you missed so many benefits to an only child and parents of only children. Having a sibling is not a guarantee that you will have a friend/confidant in childhood or adult. It does not guarantee that you will have any help with aging parents, or that you would have nieces or nephews. People who have only children are not keeping the sequestered in the basement, they will meet and have many friends, some of whom will be closer than a sibling ever would have been. Please stop spreading stereotypes of only children, do a little research and you will see that only children are just like those with siblings, only with the benefit of having more parental attention, time and resources. More and more families are choosing or having chosen for them the only child lifestyle. They are already getting enough hateful and hurtful comments without anyone fanning the flames by perpetuating myths already disproved.
    A Mother To an Only Child, who knows first hand that having a sibling is not a good thing for every child. Some, like myself, suffer physical and mental abuse at their siblings hands for their entire childhood.

    1. Mamma2AnOnly – thank you very much for posting all these links for “onelies”. I have been really struggling to decide whether I really want to have a second one. there is a lot of pressure from everyone to have another one and a lot of negative comments/reactions when you say “one and done”. It’s shocking how much someone’s reaction will make you re-think your whole child bearing plan. This helped me put a lot of things into perspective.

    2. You are wrong. As an only child I can testify to the loneliness and the difficulty in meeting friends. I was terribly lonely, and then a miracle occurred, my mother and her sister both divorced their husbands at the same time. My similarly aged cousin moved in and for a little while I had a brother. We were both only children but together we managed to make a set of friends and had a great time. Then the inevitable second marriages came, and he was gone. I still look back on that year as the best one in my entire life. From this I know with no uncertainty that only children are at a serious disadvantage socially. You are very very wrong and all those studies you pointed to are wrong. Ask any only child their personal story and you will know the truth

  2. My husband was one of six and I was one of four, we came from working class families and we both grew up wishing we were only children. It’s human nature to believe the grass is greener on the other side, and while I’m sure there are downsides to being an only child, it’s also not fun to be told that your siblings needs are more important than yours right now, or having nothing that belongs to you and you alone, or all of your Christmas gifts coming in secondhand from cousins or older siblings, or never getting new clothes or shoes you desperately need because your parents are just trying to make sure there’s enough food on the table every day, or never being able to see or spend time with your parents because they’re too busy working to support the family, or having to quit school when you’re sixteen in order to work so you can buy your own food and help your mother pay the mortgage. This is the often ignored reality that children from large families are facing every day.

    Instead of wasting time trying to guilt middle class parents that are trying to do the responsible thing and only having children they can afford to take care of financially and emotionally, why don’t we focus more on issues that actually matter and will make a difference in the world, such as affordable and safe birth control for low income families, or solving the health crisis that is leaving so many families with single parents or orphaned children.

    The great majority of parents today who are only having one child come from the working class, these days the working class cannot afford two or more children and they shouldn’t feel guilted into making such an important decision. Having a child, whether it’s your first or second, changes your life forever. It’s not like buying a goldfish, bringing another life into the world and committing to support that person for eighteen years is a big deal, and it’s not something to be entered into lightly, especially over something as silly and changeable as popular public opinion. All the nonsense arguments against having only one child have not only been disproved, but they’re simply old myths from the days when having a large family was essential for survival. That being said I also don’t think that large families of low income should be shamed or guilted for their situation either, but I feel articles like this are completely disconnected from reality. Looking at your life and realizing it would be better for you and your child if you didn’t have more children is a difficult decision to face, and it’s commendable because it means you’re putting practical needs before your biological need to reproduce. That’s what responsible parenting is.

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