During the ‘baby boom’ years of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s it was commonly held that an only child was disadvantaged by not having brothers and sisters but as we moved into the 1970s, and environmental factors moved high up on the social agenda, it became fashionable to view the only child as being advantaged by having greater parental time and attention. In essence, whether or not being an only child was an advantage or a disadvantage had more to do with society’s view of the world than it did with the position of the child himself.
Only children are often perceived as being unable to relate well to other children, as being selfish and spoilt and as being unable to stand up for themselves. In fact none of this is true and while you will find only children who do fit this picture, you will also find many children from larger families who fit the picture as well.
If anything, research shows that being an only child does have its advantages and many only children have higher self esteem, better verbal skills, are more highly motivated in terms of academic achievement and often have better relationships with their parents. In many other areas such as popularity, generosity, leadership and independence there appears to be little difference between an only child and children from larger families.
There are however some family situations which can bring special problems for the only child.