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The Only Child Grows up: A Look at Some Characteristics of Adult Only Children

Denise F. Polit, Ronald L. Nuttall and Ena V. Nuttall
Family Relations
Vol. 29, No. 1 (Jan., 1980), pp. 99-106
DOI: 10.2307/583722
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/583722
Page Count: 8
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The Only Child Grows up: A Look at Some Characteristics of Adult Only Children
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Abstract

There is considerable empirical and anecdotal evidence of negative stereotypes of the only child. The only child has often been characterized in terms of such traits as selfishness, egotism, dependence, loneliness, and unsociability. Research on young children has in general failed to find such characteristics related to the only-child status. This study was designed to extend knowledge about only children by examining a group of adults in terms of a number of important life outcomes. Data were obtained from a sample of 537 white, intact, married couples residing in middle to upper-middle class communities near Boston. In the sample, 70 wives and 62 husbands were only children. Compared with other first borns with siblings, and with individuals of higher birth orders, only children were found to have higher educational levels, higher occupational status, smaller families, and to be more secularly oriented. Female onlies were more likely to be working, to have planned their families before marriage, and to have been more autonomous in deciding to work. The three groups did not differ in terms of perceived happiness or satisfaction with life. They were also similar in their social activities and in the ways their children viewed them as parents. The data thus do not support the notion that only children are emotionally or personally handicapped by their lack of siblings.

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