Personality Traits of the only Child

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Children who are born the only child in a family have unique personality traits, according to Alfred Adler, who was born in Vienna, Austria on February 7, 1870. Is he correct in his conclusions about the personality of the only child, or is it time dated?

The only child will again never be dethroned or never pursued. These children never have to compete for attention and will constantly have adult models around. Research indicates that only children have problems with close relationships and tend to be loners and lonely. They also tend to be selfish, with the lowest need of affiliation. Next to the first-born, the only child has the highest need for achievement. However, these children are the most likely to be referred for clinical help with psychiatric disorders.”

Not everyone would agree with Alfred Adler’s 'personality psychology' regarding the only child, particularly nowadays. What appears to be missing in Adler’s conclusion regarding the personality of an only child is a positive and constructive, health and wellness orientation.

A negative, pathological, psychology-oriented point of view cannot possibly encompass the personality traits of every, only child. It is not necessarily a ‘one category fits all’ for only children.      

Every child, regardless of his or her status in a family, has a personality that is unique and different. No two only children are ever alike, although they may demonstrate some similar personality traits. Some of these will be negative, but others will be positive.

One might suggest that the ‘only’ children Adler diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, manifested the personality traits that he identified. Normal, healthy, only children probably did not manifest them, but then, he may not have assessed them to any extent either.       

Many times, only children demonstrate positive and constructive personality traits, as they are happy and fun loving by nature. They tend to be bright, well motivated and exceptionally aware of their parents, others and the world around them. Only children are often very intelligent. They learn how to walk and run, as well as do other things, very early in life. They learn to be excellent communicators, particularly with adults, because their parents, grandparents and others dote on them, give them a lot of attention and manifest high expectations of them.

The degree of care, concern and compassion, as well as the love, shown to only children, helps to reveal the full gamut of their personality traits, both positive and negative. Genetic tracking also reveals the reality that all children and grandchildren follow the genetic footprints of their ancestors. This is evident in their personalities also.

In conclusion, one must suggest that not every only child is destined to demonstrate a personality disorder that is pathologically or negatively inclined, simply because of his or her status in a family.

Ideally, the majority of only children will be health and wellness oriented, particularly in our era. Remember that childcare has improved considerably since Adler’s time. Personality assessment has advanced also.            

More about this author: W. Diane Van Zwol

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