An Only Child


By Mattie Lennon.

I haven’t  ever been described as the black sheep of the family…..and that’s simply because I am an only child.

Do my traits, foibles and way of living reflect the fact that that I was reared as an only child?

In the late nineteenth century Alfred Adler, the founder of Individual Psychology, indicated the importance of a child’s position in the “family constellation”.

According to present day experts here are some common personality traits of “only children”:

Confident: Only children are usually not afraid to make

decisions and are comfortable with their opinions.

Pays Attention to Detail: They like things to be organized and

are often on time.

Good in School: Onlies tend to read a lot and have a good

memory for facts and figures.

It’s MINE!: Only children might have difficulty sharing or

going second because they have always been first in line for


Overly Critical: While being a perfectionist is not such a bad

thing, you may have a tendency to take this to extremes and be

really critical of yourself and others.

If you’re an “only,” these feelings may be familiar:

“I didn’t do as well as I should have.”

“Sometimes I feel lonely.”

“I would be much happier with a brother or sister.”

“I’m not getting enough attention.”

Even though, as an only child, you probably spend a lot of

time talking with your parents, make sure you express yourself

to them about any long-term feelings that get you down.





Professor Floy Pepper of Portland, Oregon, said ” The only child has a decidedly difficult start in life as he spends his entire childhood among persons who are more proficient. He may try to develop skills and areas that will gain approval of the adult world or he may solicit their sympathy by being shy, timed or helpless”.

Professor Pepper goes on to say that the only child is usually pampered -and if a boy has a mother complex who feels that his father is his rival. He enjoys his position as a centre of interest and is, usually, interested only in himself.

He sometimes has a feeling of insecurity due to the anxiety of his parents. Since the only child, for the most part, is not taught to gain things by his own effort, merely to want something is to have it. If his requests are not granted, he may feel unfairly treated and refuse to cooperate.

Some time ago I came up with the mad notion of forming an International Association of Singletons. My idea fell flat on it’s face. Only three or four only children showed any interest. Most of them seem to want to get on with their lives.

I did however get a lot of views from “onlies” worldwide who had varied views (most of them positive) on their birth order.

Hai Rud in France said:”……..I feel almost privileged to be without any brothers and sisters………when I was eight or nine years old I remember an elderly neighbour patting me on the head and telling me not to worry-my mother would provide me with some company soon! My reaction was one of complete indifference to the possibility: I felt neither relieved nor jealous at the prospect, there was a complete blank in my mind”. And the effect in later life?. ” I dislike large groups of people, even friends, when you have to talk loudly to be heard. As an only child, when you say something your parents listen to you and devote their attention to you, and devote their attention to you. There is not therefore the competition to be heard or taken notice of. I see the result of this today in that I will not “fight” to the front of a conversation………..,,,My partner is also an only child. What is interesting is that neither of us will have a full scale fight over anything- we both tend to retreat rather than battle it out, simply because we never had to fight with a brother or sister…….”.


Karen Jiudetti, from Massachusetts,  claimed that;”….being an only child helped me become very independent……has created in me a certain capacity of meditation, as well as a greater sense of reason, call it pragmatism. I feel I matured mentally earlier than others of my age”.

Laurie S. Potter, Santa Barbra, Calafornia felt “…..the positive aspects of being the only child were many. She says her parents ; “….generally tried to give a life they never had.” She mentions a couple of drawbacks ( “it gives a child a very narrow frame of reference. The frame is rigid with so few people in the picture”) but sums it up as follows;” all in all it was a good experience and fostered a feeling of independence”

Not all singletons are as thankful for their birth order.

Mrs Shirley Parker-Munn from Wales(whose mother and grandmother were both  only children) told me;” Being an only child was terrible. Much loneliness, no allies and totally in a dominant, adult orientated world I couldn’t relate properly to other children……I hated my childhood…..I still feel like a freak because everyone around one has siblings and I do not.”

Eileen Bowman, London, as she felt responsible for the welfare of her parents as they got older and she says: ” ….I did not have the confidence to be able to deal with people. I always felt on the periphery and not able to make friend too easily” . She feels that being an only child ; “…..makes one a loner which is not always of one’s choosing”.

Fotios Papazopulos, a Greek, told me: ” My childhood life was lonely and not rarely oppressive… created me  some problems later in life. I was shy with women, introvert and not socialising with others until I got to know them well at which point I liked to monopolise the attention…I paired up with a woman whom I met through the mail. It proved disastrous under any aspect”.

Of all the only children who contacted me Mr. Papazopulos was, as far as I can recall, the only one who had a completely negative approach to his birth order.

How do only children fare in the marriage stakes?

It is claimed that the marriage of two only children is the least likely to last.

Well, I married an only child and she has tolerated me for a quarter of a century. I mean it has to have advantages……………..think of the absence of in-laws!!!!




Comments are closed.