So, you know the rub:  Adult only children are spoiled, bossy, selfish, dependent, and grow up too damn fast.

Well, it ain’t so.  At least, that’s what leading sibling researchers like Toni Falbo, author of The Single-Child Family, have found.

“When a person finds out that someone is an only child, they make certain assumptions about them, perhaps that they’re antisocial, shy, or egotistical. Yet when looking at hundreds of studies, I was able to conclude that, on average, only children are like other people. If there are any differences, they are that onlies are more human-motivated and have more self-­esteem.”—Toni Falbo, The Single-Child Family”


Excerpt From: Jane Mersky Leder. “The Sibling Connection: How Siblings Shape Our Lives.” iBooks.









Now, I’m married to an only.  My son is an only child as well.  And I must admit: There have been many times when I’ve tried to rationalize some . . . well, rather unbecoming behavior . . . by blaming it all on the fact that they didn’t grow up with brothers and sisters and missed all of the sibling stuff that molds our characters and so many important decisions we make in our lives.  I mean, why wouldn’t an adult only child be spoiled when she was the center of her parents’ undivided attention?  Or, pray tell, wouldn’t an only child grow up to be a rather awkward adult herself without having benefited from those social skills we hone growing up with siblings?

Toni Falbo, the above-mentioned author and professor of educational psychology in the College of Education and faculty research associate in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin, helped me set the record straight.

“A lot of people,” she said in a phone interview, “see life as a zero-sum game, in which there is only one answer, one winner, and many losers. So if I say that only children grow up to be like the rest of us, they see it as if only children have won and everybody else has lost. Or, conversely, if somebody says that having siblings is great, then not having sibs is terrible. In fact, life isn’t like that at all; there are many ways of living and growing, of having social networks.”

After decades of research, Falbo concluded that only children were not markedly different from children with siblings. In fact, only children were slightly more verbal, were good students and were not the arrogant centers of the universe.

So, though it’s unscientific to state absolutes about adult onlies, there are stereotypes that are, for most, unfounded myths.




Myth: Only children are aggressive and bossy.

Fact: Only children want to be included and well liked. They learn quickly that being aggressive and bossy pushes potential friends away.

Myth: Only children are spoiled.

Fact:  Researchers have found that only children are not particularly spoiled and that there is no difference in only children’s relationships with friends when studied with children who have siblings.

Myth: Only children are selfish.

Fact: At one time or another, any child can be selfish and think of only himself/herself. Yet parents with one child help cultivate the tools of sharing and feeling for others and can be the best early teachers.

Myth: Only children are dependent.

Fact: Only children are often more independent and self-reliant than children with siblings because they don’t have siblings to depend on.

Myth: Only children grow up too quickly.

Fact: Children with siblings often talk to their siblings more than they talk to their parents. But the most important role model for only children are parents. The result is that only children copy adult behavior, speech patterns, and behavior. This often helps them handle the ups and downs of life more easily.


Do you have anything to add to the conversation?

Excerpt From: Jane Mersky Leder. “The Sibling Connection: How Siblings Shape Our Lives.” iBooks.


The Last Time I Saw My Father

Funny how a memory pops up when we least expect it.  Our minds go to unexpected places at unpredictable times.  Sometimes there’s an obvious link; often, memories seem to appear out of left field like an errant baseball thrown past home plate and into the stands.

The last time I saw my father was at the lunch following my mother’s funeral.  My dad didn’t want a funeral and, along with my two surviving siblings, conspired to make sure that my mother didn’t get the service and burial she would have wanted and deserved.

The grand compromise?  There would be no funeral home service but a small one at the gravesite.  Some compromise.  But that was the best I could do.

And there we were standing on the front porch of a distant relative’s home (Everyone else had moved away) —my husband, son, good friend from high school and my dad.

The friend waxed eloquent about how my mother and father had been like substitute parents and how much he appreciated their concern and support.

“Well, at least someone appreciates me.”

He looked straight at me.  “That’s more than I can say about some others.”

Was he serious?  What the hell had I done?  Maybe the knock on his head (actually, he fell and suffered a subdural hematoma two days before my mother died)  had rattled his memory.  I’d been the dutiful older daughter who jumped through hoops to make him love me.

Okay, so he was pissed that I’d “forced” a service for my mother.  Well, screw him!  He couldn’t forgive me for what turned out to be a lovely celebration of my mother’s life?

My friend said a quick good-bye and headed for his car.  In what looked like a choreographed move, my son, husband and I stood and walked back inside the house. We were in no mood to weather my father’s abuse.

And that was it: I never hugged my father, said how much I missed my mother or how I knew the next months would be tough but that he could count on me to be there for him whenever he needed me.

He did call me once after that and offered me my mother’s car.  A peace offering?  I graciously said “no” because I had a car and didn’t need another.

He died two weeks later.



Belated Father’s Day Musings

Father’s Day has come and gone.  I took my husband out to dinner and bought the proverbial “You’re the best father in the world” card and cards from each of our two cats.

But my husband stepped into the father role when my son was eight.  The going was rough, but somehow we managed to weather and survive the continuous barrage of family relationship storms.

My son’s father remains very much in the picture.  He lives close by and, while he has a new wife (his third) and a young son thirty years younger than ours, he takes an active role.

Still, on Father’s Day, my son’s step dad (my husband) stands in the wings.  While my son tries his best to honor both dads and to spend time with both on Father’s Day, it’s not always possible.

Like this year.  There was a father/son golf tournament that teed off at 8:30 a.m. and lasted for hours.  It was over 90 degrees and, after a discouraging game, my son went home to recover.  He couldn’t muster the energy to then trudge out our way for a second Father’s Day commemoration.

Who could blame him?

Thankfully, his step dad took this in stride.  The three of us will celebrate later this week.

But these preordained days that “force” us to honor a parent seem artificial and, as in our case, complicated.  Why can’t we celebrate our parents on our own schedule, at our own pace?

Last year, I blogged “Apologies to My Dad on Father’s Day.”  Sadly, he passed away almost eight years ago, and my apologies were after the fact.  It felt good for me to get some stuff off my chest, but my dad probably didn’t get the memo.

Why hadn’t I told him when he was still around that I was sorry for having teased him when, at age 80+, he couldn’t get up from the exercise mat on the floor?  (I get it now: I’m having trouble pushing myself up from any lower than, say, two feet.)

Why was I so selfish in urging him not to die on my birthday?  He was in a coma of sorts and, hopefully, didn’t get that memo, either.  Still, he didn’t need any pressure from me as he struggled to move from this earth plane to whatever is next.  (He did die on his own terms the day after my birthday and waited until all of us, including the hospice nurse, were out of the room.)

My sister called me last Sunday.  We reminisced about our “daddy-o” and so many events both good and not so good that continue to give us pause, joy, and strength.  I treasure my sister connection and the special ways in which she and I can talk about things that no one else in the world can understand.

For that, dad, I am eternally grateful.