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.


From My Closet to the Goddess Kali With A Book About Brothers & Sisters In There Somewhere

I wake up every morning, shower and dress.  Well, begin to dress.  But when it comes to the day’s choice of a t-shirt, blouse or sweater, I often find myself rummaging through my closet, foolishly hoping that an item of clothing that wasn’t there yesterday, the day before, or the day before that will miraculously have found its way to a hanger.

Of course, nothing new turns up.  Dispirited, I’m forced to recognize that I’m faced with the same old choices.

I find it curious that, while I know the outcome, I continue to hope for some kind of clothing miracle.  Maybe it’s my lame attempt at changing the course of events in my life and/or in the life of many others.

That may be a stretch.  But at this time of year, there is a robust list of upcoming events, personal habits and relationships that I’d like to either change or reverse.



  • To drop my addiction to politics during this Presidential season.  (When will it end?)  Like all addicts, I do everything in my power to avoid the culprits:  TV news (if you can call it that), newspaper, mostly online, radio shows like National Public Radio, progressive stations, even MSBC.  No matter how hard I try to kick the habit, I need my daily fix.  Monday and Tuesday of this week were exceptions: “The Voice” came back on the air after its summer hiatus, and I was giddy with the distraction.  I didn’t cheat once.  But then there’s the first debate a few days from now.  As much as I know it will send me up the wall, I must watch, even though I know I may have to resort to a couple of shots of tequila.


  • To stop the steady march toward the dark days, freezing temperatures, and snow of winter.  (If we weren’t spending a chunk of time in Mexico, I’d have already slipped into the beginnings of depression.)  As it is, I watch the sun drop a few minutes earlier each day and, as a midwesterner, know what’s coming.  (No wonder I want to move to warmer, sunnier climes.)




  • To reconnect with my estranged brother who lives in France.  We haven’t spoken in six years and counting.  (I’ll be detailing the split in a personal essay coming soon to a magazine or blog near you.)  In the meantime—particularly as the author of The Sibling Connection—I sometimes feel like a fraud and a failure who had no business writing a book about brothers and sisterThe Sibling Connection
  • To find the transformative power of the goddesses within me and women around the world.  I know . . . It all sounds rather 1960s, doesn’t it?  And maybe it is.  But I’m going to give it a shot.  Maybe I can resolve the push and pull between the mother figure and the fearsome warrior and accept both as normal, highly regarded parts of the goddess Kali and me.
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Ah, the ways of the subconscious.  From non existent clothes in my closet to the goddess Kali.  The mind works in wondrous ways.




Why I Write

Let’s put it this way: I write because I must.  Sure, I get frustrated, bereft of ideas and self-confidence. Like someone in a bad marriage, I’ve tried to quit writing and move on.  I can’t.

They say you can’t give up the things you love.  (Well, something like that.)  And it’s true: I can say things on paper (Boy, that dates me, doesn’t it?) that I can never say out loud.  I can input thoughts/feelings on Word that I could never organize in the middle of a heated discussion.  I can’t always be funny or “quick” or articulate in the moment but can often get everything straightened out when I write.

I write because I want to hone my craft.  Every time I read a fabulous book by some thirty something author, I want to die and come back as, you guessed it, a writer.  I flip the tops of pages, underline, write notes in the margins . . . all so that I can learn from the “masters.”

Writing, like gardening, requires a willingness to change, to get rid of what isn’t working, to create new and fulfilling palettes.  Right now, I’m in the midst of planting a new garden on the south side of my house, a restful, peaceful space where I can relax, read, and “see” in the shade.

Similarly, I’m in the midst of expanding my writing style to include a subtle sense of humor just like my dad’s.  I’m no Irma Bombeck but a writer with a wry, understated style.  Not an easy task, but I’m up for the challenge.

I write because I love to put the puzzle pieces of words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, essays together and, along the way, figure out a little bit more about myself and universal experiences that affect us all.






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