Have you heard what they say about being an only child?
Rumor has it that "onlies" are all selfish, lazy, people who don't know the joy of siblings. Or maybe it's just the opposite and only children wind up being great people who make close friendships that they value.
Research indicates that throughout history only children were relatively uncommon. However, as people faced declining birth rates , birth control, inflation and a larger demand for the workforce, more families began to raise only children.
A recent article from the Only Child website (www.onlychild.com) says, "The percentage of women nationwide who have one child has nearly doubled in the past 20 years ..." Today, there are some 14 million only children in America, representing about 20 percent of all kids, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
There are many reasons for having one child, researchers tell us, such as personal preference or perhaps late marriage, advanced age, divorce, infertility, or death of a sibling or parent. Some adults choose to have one child as a result of financial, emotional or physical health issues; others may have fears over pregnancy, or want to provide educational advantages to one child, or even be more able to travel.
One thing is for sure; only children are often the subject of a stereotype that points to them as spoiled brats. Researchers say that fledgling psychologist G. Stanley Hall was one of the first experts to give only children a bad reputation more than 100 years ago when he referred to their situation as "a disease in itself." Even though his research has been proved untrue, the "spoiled, selfish and bratty" stereotype seems to have stuck.
Being an only child has its advantages and disadvantages according to area teens.
"I love being an only child. I don't have to share my car or my room. I'm probably spoiled, but that's OK," says Tyler Squires, a senior from St. Joseph High School. "Once in a while, I get lonely, but I guess everyone does."
And Squires also says he loves being an "only" because always having to share is frustrating.
'My own stuff'
Life as an only child can be stressful, according to Alex Shaw, a senior at St. Joseph High, because you carry your entire parent's hopes and dreams on your shoulders as well as your own.
"Being raised as an only child is great. I get what I want," she says. "There are some things I don't like though. I'm bored a lot and my parents get on my case about grades and school; they ride me hard as an only child."
No doubt only children have built-in parental cheering sections at every soccer game or track meet and some may get more than their share of presents on birthdays and holidays.
Zac Smith, a Box Elder High senior, says, "I like being an only child; I got a laptop for Christmas. I have my parents' full attention, but I don't like it all the time."
"I like that I can have my own stuff," adds Alexa Broadbent, a junior in Electronic High School. "I don't have to worry about someone taking my clothes or food or anything. I guess that's pretty selfish, but it's totally true."
One negative aspect of being the lone kid is "I don't have anyone to blame anything on," Broadbent says. "If I do something wrong, it's always me who did it. I could blame it on my friends, but my parents would see right through that."
For Smith, "It's boring sometimes and there's no one to pick on."
No friends? Boring!
Josh Mason, a sophomore at Electronic High School, says, "Sometimes I feel like no one is around. A lot of people hang out with their siblings if their friends can't do something, but I don't have that kind of thing. If my friends are busy, that means I stay at home."
However, Mason says there are perks to being the only offspring.
"Being an only child is nice because I've learned more about my parents, and I get out of my shell a lot more," he says. "Getting into new situations, like changing schools or something, is a lot easier because I've always had to just be me."
Mason's statement that socializing seems to be easy discredits a popular belief that only children are antisocial and therefore have a harder time making friends.
Susan Newman, a Rutgers University psychologist, says in the July 2010 issue of Time magazine, "People articulate that only children are spoiled; they're aggressive; they're bossy; they're lonely; they're maladjusted ... but, there have been hundreds and hundreds of research studies that show that only children are no different from their peers."
When you are the only child, you get to be the oldest and youngest child in the family all at the same time -- your parents' pride and joy.
Maybe the worst part is, as Broadbent says, that when something goes wrong, you can never say, "It wasn't me!"
Michelle Howe is a senior at St. Joseph Catholic High School. She enjoys soccer, cross country, hurdles and music. E-mail her at email@example.com.