Personality Traits of the only Child

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"Personality Traits of the only Child"
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Many decades age, families insisted on having more than one child especially because of the belief that there should be someone to accompany the other sibling throughout life. However, at present, the trend of having only one child seems to be rising gradually and from 1984 to 1994, the number of women giving birth to only one child had risen by over 40%. The trend seems to be continuing at a much higher rate at present and this has also lead to the discussion of how personality traits associated with such children could affect the society as a whole in the future.

The decision to have only one child: Factors and its relation to personality traits

The decision to have only one child is affected by many different factors and among them, the financial burden of having several children, the risk of having children at an elderly age, having to engage in demanding careers especially by the female have been cited repeatedly. At the same time, governmental pressure to limit the number of children in a family to a minimum have also contributed immensely to the rising trend. However, it is not clear as to what factors contribute towards the development of personality traits among these children when compared with the children who are having siblings. Nevertheless, it is prudent to assume that the factors which lead to making the decision to have only one child may also contribute towards the development of certain personality traits among such children.

The need for being in the center of attention

When a child is the only child of a family, he or she becomes the center of attention, not only the parents but also for the grandparents and other extended family members. They grow up with adults and have the tendency to mimic adult behavior at a very early stage. The undivided attention, love, and energy of the parents can simply make the child overwhelmed and it is possible for such children to seek similar attention, focus, and respect from the others in the society at locations such as school, workplace or even during team work.

Merging and emergence of common traits

Researchers who have studied adult personality traits of those who have spent their childhood as an only child, describes three personality types. These are the ‘normal and well adjusted’, ‘impulsive and acting out’ and ‘first-bornish’. According to these researchers, the personality traits of each type seems to persist throughout the adulthood, although some characteristics merge and emerge as common traits at a later stage in the ‘normal and well adjusted’ type and in the ‘acting out and impulsive type’. Thus, main personality traits exhibited by these two types include dependability and productiveness along with several other stable traits.

Personality traits and gender difference

In a study conducted among Chinese children, it was revealed that only-children exceed sibling-children on ‘achievement motivation’, although the study did not found a difference between traits related to ‘interpersonal skills’ and ‘attitude towards manual labor’. At the same time, the researchers were able to uncover that girls usually received a higher rating for the same traits described earlier than that received by their male counterparts.

The common positive traits

In general, experts believe that only children do posses positive as well as negative traits. Being confident is a positive trait that has been recognized by many experts and accordingly, these children seems to be able to make decisions without much difficulty based on their own opinions. At the same time, only children seem to top the list when it comes to organizational skills because they tend to pay attention to detail and be punctual in most occasions. With regard to school performance, many agree that only children seem to have a good memory and tend to read a lot than the children with siblings.

The negative traits

However, only children also demonstrate negative personalities such as ‘mineness’, which depicts their inability to share or come second, even without any competitive environment. At the same time, these children are known to be highly sensitive and may not tolerate criticism well. During their adulthood, these children may grow up to be overly demanding and unforgiving at various instances.


Although only children demonstrate several negative personality traits, it is a fact that parents who take the extra effort to introduce the only child to a society where he or she can learn to share, work in teams and develop better coping skills, could minimize such negative traits and promote the positive ones further. Therefore, one-child families should not spoil the child, but should promote the child to take responsibility and care for the others even though there are no siblings to practice the same at the home setting.

More about this author: Dr Pandula Siribaddana

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