Stereotyping Children

Only children are often stereotyped in many ways. In my opinion, none of the common stereotypes are true. Some the most common include; a child being shy, spoiled, selfish, and lonely. It is often assumed by many people today that for a child to develop normally he or she should have siblings and that the position of being an only child has negative effects on an individual’s adjustment, personality, and character. This view started in 1898 by the psychologist G. Stanley Hall who, on the basis of a study with an extremely small sample size of only children, concluded that being an only child is a disease in itself” (Sandler, 2011).

Though Hall’s research was limited to only a handful of children, leaving his results less than reliable, his study paved the way for stereotypes of only children and how these stereotypes are perceived today. One of the most common stereotypes of only children is the idea that they are always spoiled.

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According to Susan Newman the author of The Case of an Only Child, “People still think only children are spoiled rotten”and overlook the same parental behavior in parents whose children have siblings”(2011, p. 59) .

The eneral population doesn’t usually call a child riding in an expensive stroller “spoiled” if a brother or sister is tagging along, but put a single child in the very same extravagant stroller and a spoiled comment might be heard. Parents of only children do not own the market of over indulgence Newman explains. (2011). In addition, in the last twenty years the Chinese conducted studies on only children, concerned that the country was raising “little emperors” as a result of its one-child policy. China came to the same conclusion: only children are no more spoiled than the overall population. (Newman, 2011).

Parents who consistently submit to their children’s wants and never say no create spoiled children: siblings or no siblings. Another common stereotype of only children is shyness. I could relate to this stereotype as a child myself as I was very shy. Is it possible that my shy behavior had nothing to do with my lack of siblings? According Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan, who studied shyness, being shy is a biological issue; and only children were the same as other children in this respect. It is also stereotyped that only children are not only shy also dependent on their parents, due to their lack of siblings. Newman, 2011).

However, the opposite is usually true especially as children grow. Siblings tend to provide protection for a dependent child who will use siblings as a shield, according to Susan Newman. (Newman, 2011). Newman goes on to conclude “My research suggests that very young only children will make demands on their parents’ time. But as singletons get older they become increasingly self-reliant; they have to be. Only children want friends, want to be involved, and do whatever it takes to achieve that goal”. (Newman, 2011, p. 56). Independence is also fostered more so by parents who are not over earing or hover over their children.

Consequently, parents who hover are prevalent in families with single children and also with multiple children. At the end of the day, whether a child is shy or even dependent on others, it has been proven that these tendencies have nothing to do with the amount a siblings one might or might not have. Most concerns about only children have no truth today, including the difficulties sharing and making friends and therefore, be lonely. This worry comes from a long-held belief that dealing with siblings teaches children how to share and get along with others.

In 2005, Toni Falbo, Kokyung Soon, and Dudley Poston at the University of Texas reanalyzed results from a 1990 study in China of 4,000 primary- school-children in grades three to six to help determine if siblings offer beneficial experiences in terms of character development and interpersonal skills. Their results, discussed in “Playing Well with others in China: The Benefits of Having No Siblings at Home,” were compiled from ratings by parents, teachers, and the students themselves. Fablo’s study also looked at results from a 2004 American study of kindergarteners’ social skills.

In both the American and Fablo’s studies, only children shared an advantage in intelligence and school achievement. Overall, Dr. Falbo found no positive effects of having one or more siblings in terms of cooperativeness and sociability. (Newman, 2011). Children who don’t have any siblings often become closer to friends and advances in technology allow children to be more connected than ever before. Those connections give children a social life that extends beyond school hours and after school activities they share with friends. As an only child myself, I can say that I was never lonely.

I had friends around constantly. My mother recalls something different though, she says she was often left out and felt lonely at times, even with three siblings. A child even with a multiple amount of siblings can feel alone some times. Selfishness is another popular stereotype of only children. It is often believed that single children are self-centered and only think of themselves, due to the child’s lack of siblings. I believe that it’s not the number of children in a family that determines selfishness, but rather, the values parents instill in their children.

Moreover, only children are often times very loyal and thoughtful. Single children tend to cherish the friendships they have because they do not have siblings. Only children put a lot of weight on their relationships. For example, I treat my close friends like sisters because I do not have sisters myself. I appreciate my friendships and as a child I would often be able to take friends on trips and include them. I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that if I would have had siblings. Susan Newman states that all children are selfish at times though, no matter the amount of siblings. . d. ). Every child at one time or another believes the world revolves around him Newman explains. (Newman, n. d. ) Even though single child homes are becoming more and more common as the cost to have and raise a child is only going up in todays world. In addition to cost, many couples are starting families later in life causing the decision to only have one child. Even as only children are becoming more common the stereotypes of only children still linger today nonetheless. Research, however, has proven that these common stereotypes of only children are not relevant in todays world.

Children can be selfish, lonely, shy, or even spoiled no matter if he or she has siblings or not. A child’s personality is a major factor in behavior and also, how the parents treat the child. Parenting style and what values parents teach their children, siblings or not, is a big indicator of if a child will have any of these traits I have listed above. At the end of the day, a child’s behavior or personality traits are not a result of the amount of siblings a child has or doesn’t have. As the facts have shown, these traits and behaviors can be prevalent in families with many children, latsoever.

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