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.

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  1. Ive been an only child for 43 years, never wanted or needed a sibling. i am independent and have a great relationship with parents and other older family members.
    I am strong and self assured i am neither spoilt or selfish in fact the opposite.
    I now have a great husband and daughter. i could not have wanted for anything and say there is nothing wrong with being an only child.
    An only child will make friends and be just fine. I assure you.

  2. Its a great feeling to be around and part of a family of at least 4. Its fun and usually such kids rise to greater heights. Parents hardly regret in such families.

  3. 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

      1. @HG Fawkes – good to have input from an only child… but that is your one experience. The studies linked above by @Mamma2AnOnly were based on hundreds of only child families, not just one.

        As commented above also, just because you have a sibling doesn’t mean you will make more friends. If the age gap is big, their friends will not be your friends. When you grow up, you may not be close to your older/younger sibling. I have four siblings and I don’t get along with all of them. While three of us played a lot, the older ones were more on their own with their own friends. What I missed growing up was time with my parents… they both worked very hard to raise 5 kids. I never really made close friends as a child. We moved around a lot, no doubt a byproduct of my parents struggle.

        Now I have my own family, and only one child. We decided that whatever came along naturally was what we would have. Yes, there are some moments when I think it would be nice if he had a brother or sister – but we have a really strong bond – way more than I experienced with my parents. He has many friends at school and makes new friends very easily. He has regular play dates and does plenty of social and sporting activities. We have been able to help him a lot with school and his reading is way ahead of other kids.

        There are no set rules. Whatever as parents we have are special gifts.

    3. I have no problem saying “one and done”. I am one of four children and it is my decision to only have one baby. I don’t think being an only child makes them any better or worse than having siblings. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I only want to have 1 is because I have seem families whose children are out of control and that has more to do with parenting and being overwhelmed with having too many kids to look after. I also see the stress that it brings to the parents and how much it takes away from them as a couple. Your child is going to be a product of your upbringing, values, morals and environment. In the end it is a personal decision how many kids you want to have based on how much time you have to dedicate to them (stay at home moms have it easier there), financial resource, family support, personal/career goals (beyond being a mom or wife/partner) and your dynamic as a couple. Being a good parent is more important than how many kids you have.

    4. Just like fingers in our hand, there are long and short. Coming from a family of 5 siblings where the mother appreciate son more than daughters, it’s really painful. That’s the reason I choose to be mother of a single child to make up what I lost – love and heart-to-heart talk with mother.

  4. 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.

  5. I loathe these pathetic unintelligent articles about only children. I grew up with an older brother, he is insanely selfish and very cold and I rarely see him he has now just left his 3 kids and wife of 15 years and the 11 and 13 year olds are a mess, the only one who is taking it okay and behaving is the six year old. I am a singje mother of one child (ex was verbally abusive and a cheat so I left him). My daughter is an only child and is highly intelligent (top at maths and English) brilliant swimmer and runner, outgoing, very sweet and kind and very popular and doesn’t have a self obsessed sibling/s to worry about. Only children tend to grow up to be successful in their chosen field and well adjusted! Please go away with the pathetic old fashioned myths of lonely and spoilt,, it dated and rubbish!

  6. I have one child and I dont know if I want another one. I personally have two sisters and I see them like 2-3 times a year and we rarely speak. It’s nice to see them when I see them but we aren’t close. We never have been. Growing up, we were fighting all the time. May be because we were only 1 year apart?! My mom was home with us but honestly we were rarely playing together. I wouldn’t have mind to be an only child. My husband is an only child and never wished for siblings. He’s very happy and successful in life. He runs a huge business and is extremely good with people. Funny because I am the one with sibling and I have never been comfortable with other people. And my best friend is also an only child and has always been surrounded by many good and close friends, and never wished for siblings either. So the way I think is…. Don’t make another baby to give your child a sibling but make another baby if thats what YOU want for YOUR life.

  7. This article is so generalised its not even worth writing!!

    I am a single parent of a single child. According to the above not great, right? Perhaps I should be panicking my child will be psychologically damaged? Neither was planned this way – married with two children was the plan! – admittedly not growing up in a house with both parents is not ideal (we separated when she was just 10 months) but preferable to witnessing a dysfunctional marriage. I’m confident 4yo is on a par with other children but in very different ways.

    At 4yo she attends daycare three days per week. The other days are ballet, swimming, gymnastics plus four one hour sessions at a gym creche to play with other children. These activities have been presented to her, readily agreed, throughly enjoyed and continues to want to participate. The only day she does not have planned interaction is Sunday.

    She has already established 3 close friends at daycare who she now regularly see outside of d/care (which I am able to arrange and do as I’m not judging other children). In addition, ever second weekend she spends with her father (who now has 4 step children) which she loves but is then happy to be home. She has a huge number of facets to her life and has responded by being noticably emotionally and developmentally more secure than her peers – which constantly has surprised me as the issues raised in your article caused many sleepless nights fretting when I became a single parent.

    I have also chosen (and lucky enough to afford to live mortgage free) to study during her pre-school years to have the freedom to do the above. We have an incredible amount of fun together exploring various activities and neither of us enjoys long periods at home.

    I am in the process of completing my studies to start a small business which will coincide with her starting school which works as she will need less of my time and I love pursuing my own interests.

    IN CONTRAST, I am one of 8 children. Growing up in rural South Australia. Going out to socialise was a major event of preparing 8 children, hoping none were sick, the cost of doing so making it a rare happening; we were only allowed to play either netball or soccer as there was no way my parents could ferry us around to 8 different activities. The result? I had terrible trouble with non family members at school and didn’t make friends easily. Although I am on good terms with my siblings, we see each other only occasionally. I am also more emotional than others but also a preference to being independent. My sister is bitter and claims ‘mum was never there for her’ even though both my parents were extremely loving but just busy.

    I’m sure there are many out there who would snub there nose at a single parent who choses to not go back into a relationship. I don’t. Life does NOT just happen in the home. While I don’t agree with women choosing to have a child artificially or purposely becoming a single parent, you work with what you have got and if you are smart, your child doesn’t miss out, keeping in mind there are pros and cons with every situation.


  9. I came from a big family,I have two sisters,bunch of female and male cousins that I grow up with,uncles and aunts- we are very close. My sisters and my cousins as I grow up with them became my only friends. I didn’t have to make friends because I already have friendship I found within a family. But when I got married and moved to a different State,I had a difficult time adjusting and making friends. Even now that I’m already get adjusted to this new environment after 10 years of adjusting,I still have a difficult time making friends,it’s because I am used to growing up with my family members who were also my friends. Now I have an only child,he didn’t grow up close to relatives like I did,but he is super friendly and have lots of friends at daycare. I guess every person reacts differently to any circumstances. Like I came from a close bonded family but had a hard time making friends outside family members,now at 36 I am lonely. My only child growing up away from his relatives is actually very friendly and happy and have an easy time making friends and interacting to other kids and adults,next thing I know he’s already conversing with someone whom we just happened to met in the store.

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