Only children are sometimes faced with social behavior problems because they do not have interactions with siblings as they grow up. They lose out on being able to interact with others close to their age in the home, and they miss out on daily social interactions that can help educate them about proper methods of socialization. Only children often are stereotyped as spoiled children, which may later hinder the success of social interactions.
Missing Out on Sibling Interaction
When the only child misses out on daily sibling interactions, he is forced to seek elsewhere for socialization education. Only children need to interact with children of a similar age group to quickly master an understanding of behavior and consequences. Thus, the only child must be outgoing and amiable to win friends in order to have the opportunity to socialize and compensate for having no siblings at home to socialize with. According to Murray Kappelman, a pediatrician from Baltimore, only children do not assimilate well in large groups and they grow up learning how to dominate social situations. In essence, they often become too outgoing. When an only child is too forceful or overly dominant in social situations, it can prove problematic when interacting with other children and making and keeping friends and keeping friends.
Introversion and Extroversion
Introversion is a personality characteristic that involves a focus on one's inner reality, which outweighs the focus on one's outer or external reality. In contrast, extroversion involves a focus on one's external environment and others that outweighs the focus on one's internal reality. Some only children are more likely to become introverted, because they are self-dependent. The amount of introversion varies depending upon the child, but there is still a propensity to become excessively over-reliant and self-focused.
Other only children are introverted and extroverted simultaneously, despite their natural desire to be either introverted or extroverted. An introverted child who is more comfortable with being alone must force herself to be more social and make friends, while the extroverted child must force himself to become more self-reliant and self-focused in order to adapt to various social situations. Ultimately, it means that the only child has a propensity to act against natural tendencies to fit in socially, and this can prove incredibly uncomfortable for the child emotionally and psychologically.
The only child often is stereotyped as privileged and spoiled, even if she does not behave that way. This can make socialization more difficult because the general public, other children included, frown upon the child who is thought of as spoiled, demanding or domineering. Thus, if the only child is considerably privileged, she might feel as if it is something that must be hidden or that her considerable good fortune is something she should be ashamed or embarrassed about. This can lead to self-esteem and self-confidence issues, and it can cause her to continually pretend to be something she is not in order to fit in better socially.
For the only child to develop good socialization skills, the lack of sibling interaction must be replaced with other opportunities to socialize. School interactions, play groups and participating in child-oriented organizations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can help the child to learn socialization skills and to simultaneously develop self-esteem. In "Parenting an Only Child: The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only," Dr. Susan Newman, Ph.D., explains that the parents of the only child also must set boundaries at home so the child learns to respect boundaries in a social setting. Parents need to encourage the concepts of sharing and empathy to help their child master an intricate understanding of how social relationships work based on behavior and consequences.
- Parenting an Only Child: The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only; Susan Newman, Ph.D.; 2001
- The Dilemma of the Only Child