Why are the youngest children usually pampered

EDUCATION: Put an end to the only child cliché!

EDUCATION: Put an end to the only child cliché!

Children without siblings may be different. But not in the way they are always accused of, namely selfish and spoiled. A plea for an only child.

Self-centered. Socially incompetent. Spoiled. Unable to share. This is how you imagine people who grew up without a brother or sister. Even the words only child and no sibling suggest a deficit. It has been almost a century since the US child psychologist Stanley Hall said: "Being an only child is a disease." But far too often the judgment that is accompanied by a roll of the eyes is still made: "Typically an only child." Today, when siblings are no longer uncommon, where there are studies that gave the all-clear decades ago, and where almost every infant learns to deal with their peers in the crèche or in the patchwork household anyway.

Arguing about a chicken leg

The prejudice that only children are strange egomaniacs has persisted over the years. How so? The book author, couple and family therapist Peter Angst from Winterthur says: “This is probably a holdover from the time when large families with four or more children were still the norm. Anything that was outside of the 'norm' was fought out of envy. No wonder if there were six of you in your own family and had to fight over a chicken leg. " As one of six, he had always dreamed of being an only child. "With my childless aunt, I got a lot more care and space."

When asked whether, as a connoisseur of people, he would be able to pick the only children out of a large group of people, he replied: “Certainly not. And anyone who says so is a babbler. " The experience of many adult only children shows, however, that in social gatherings, someone often loudmouths so-called typical only children, not realizing that someone is sitting at the table with them. And then they usually say: “Oh, are you one of them too? Typical!"

The following assertion, which a journalist from the magazine “Psychologie Heute” picked up somewhere and reproduced in an article, shows how ignorant the statements are at times: Only children would demand more attention from birth and scream more than siblings. As if it was already clear "from birth" for any person whether he or she would grow up as an only child! In any case, it is seldom planned or desired that it will remain with “just” one child, but it arises from the life situation of the parents: financial bottlenecks, separations, employment, advanced age of the mother, etc.

Definition is questionable

All the character defects that only children are said to have - princess airs, egoism, spoiledness, inability to make contact - are attributed to the supposedly greater attention that an individual child enjoys from its parents. The fact is that only children these days grow up in social, family and financial conditions not too dissimilar to those of extended families. The differences in character cannot be that huge.

How pampered and dependent can a child be if it has remained the only one precisely because the mother has been a single parent since the separation and cannot come home with a warm meal every lunchtime? Or how anti-social is someone who is already at six months in the daycare center and quarreling with other babies about a toy? In any case, the definition of an only child has become questionable: Are you still an only child when step-siblings or half-siblings suddenly come into the house through divorce and remarriage? And whoever grows up in a loving environment with lots of contact options, will almost certainly feel less “single” than a child from a large family with little feelings.

No, only children - like everyone else - do not fit into a template. How a child develops is not determined simply by whether or not there are biological siblings. “It is upbringing that makes it all,” says Peter Angst. These “little monsters that take up too much space in a system” are a product of the fact that they were too often the focus. But the expert is convinced that you can pamper two children just as much as a single one. "The many spoiled children I had in my practice were by no means all only children." Upbringing and socialization mean teaching a child "where the self ends and you begin". However, this cannot be achieved by withdrawing the child's attention to some extent. "You can't get too much from good parental attention," he is convinced. "On the contrary, it's nice to be satisfied as a child."

Longing for a deep relationship

If the negative view of only children is actually accompanied by a certain envy of undivided parental attention, the following must be said here: Only children have by far not only advantages and rights - they also bear the duties alone. If the parents one day need care or die, as an adult only child you can neither share the care responsibilities nor the pain with someone. And of course, many without siblings suffer from being an only child now and then, and dearly wish for a sibling.

"Many only children know a huge longing for deep, good relationships, for an ideal friend and life partner," says Angst. This feeling of deficiency is like a hole that sometimes cannot be filled even if you are already “big and strong” and have your own family. “They yearn for harmony so much,” says the therapist, “that they evade the intensity of the relationship and withdraw because they are troubled by arguments and arguments. That can be a burden for the relationship. "

Arguing on an equal footing

Quarreling, being able to find the other “stupid cow”, or being found, throwing someone's opinion on someone's head without the world ending immediately: this experience is potentially less common. Peter is afraid that trouble with strange children is different than with siblings, because it is much easier to evade it. And arguments with a parent are often accompanied by feelings of powerlessness, because they are always right anyway. "Anyone who has not been able to practice arguing at eye level," he says, "tends to be in need of harmony and avoidance of conflict."

But all of this does not make only children selfish tyrants or otherwise worse people. On the contrary, the special constellation also endows them with absolutely desirable properties. "Precisely because only children are potentially very much in the focus of their parents," says Peter Angst, "they run the risk of becoming a catalyst when there is tension between the two." In the father-mother-child triangle, they would bear a great deal of responsibility and thus endow them with balancing qualities at an early age. It is therefore not surprising that only children generally do well in studies of social behavior and show a special sense of justice. If the playmates are not automatically put in front of your nose in the form of siblings, you are particularly dependent on friends from “outside” and therefore learn all the better to actively make new contacts and try to make them again and again.

Studies have also shown that only children feel more responsible for their destinies. If an exam goes wrong, they blame themselves rather than external circumstances. An only child study claims to have found that siblings have a head start in their linguistic expression. This is probably related to the fact that they move early and often in the “sensible” world of adults.

Well, only children are - just like the youngest, middle and oldest siblings - a little different. But they are different in a different way than you always think.

How many only children are there?

Statistics wia. How many children are there actually today in Switzerland without siblings? Again and again it can be read that their number is increasing. On average, a woman has 1.52 children in her lifetime. A specific number of only children is not available, however, as this is practically impossible to collect. The Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO) records how many children are living in a household at time x. It cannot be determined from this whether the family may grow in size in the coming years and whether any older siblings have already moved out. An approximation of the actual number of only children had to be calculated first with the help of the data collected in the censuses and available from the FSO information service. According to this calculation, in 1970 around every twelfth child was “probably” an only child, in 2000 (latest figures) around one in ten. It is therefore certainly correct to speak of an increase, but in fact it is likely to be even greater. In the same period, the number of blended families also increased, and only children growing up in blended situations are not distinguished from siblings in the statistics.

However, the impression that one-child families could soon be the norm is probably unfounded, as a non-representative survey of teachers revealed: In each of the ten classes (kindergarten through high school), each of which comprises between 12 and 22 students, there are one or two only children; in two cases there are four of them.