Scientists, doctors, psychologists and parents have long compared children and their birth order, trying to sort out the differences that arise due to birth order. Though many varying opinions exist on this topic, few have reached any hard conclusions. Of course, this is in part due to the difficulty in distinguishing between nature versus nurture. However, there are some overriding differences amongst children according to birth order that seem to prevail in at least the majority of circumstances. One such difference is the high level of independence seen in only children.
As anyone with children has experienced, the first child is the hardest in many ways. Parents are nervous, excited, and afraid of doing something wrong, eager to see their child perform and worried that they won’t do so for some unforeseen reason. Simply put, parents are not at all laid back with their first child. This can be seen in the independence and Type A personalities so common to first children in multiple child families. However, they also have the later experience of a more relaxed parenting style as their parents repeat the same procedure with younger siblings. As a result, by the time these firstborn have reached their preteen years, they have parents that are much more confident in their abilities and, quite frankly, much busier dealing with other younger children.
Only children do not have the same situation, as their parents remained focused solely on them throughout childhood and do not become preoccupied with new arrivals in the family. One might think that this singular focus of the parents could result in exactly the opposite of an independent child, leading instead to clinginess and insecurity in later years. However, this is not at all true. Instead, the only child will most often find this attention reassuring, giving them a very stable foundation from which to reach out, explore and grow within their world.
Another difference is simply the amount of time spent with adults. Only children thrive in an environment in which they are often surrounded by more adult conversation and activity, giving them a very real glimpse into the world of adults. Instead of seeing their family as pivoting around themselves or “the children” the only child will be introduced to bigger ideas, concepts and topics of conversation early on in their childhood. This encourages a child to grow in maturity, a major component of an independent personality.
Only children are generally highly independent due to these various factors. However, it is important to remember that, regardless of your child’s natural personality tendencies or birth order placement, they are a very real, very unique individual. The only thing you can be absolutely sure of is that, whether you raise 1 or 10, every child will bring their own unique quirks, styles and personalities to bear on situations, making every experience of parenthood a new and exciting journey.