Feb 28, 2018

Thoughts About Being An Only Child and Traits of Birth Order

I recently discovered I was part of a group of individuals that have something significant in common with each other and, interestingly, this group is made up of some pretty notable people. 

Sharing the singing talents of Elvis or Frank Sinatra would be cool, but that's not what we have in common. 

I don't have the presidential significance of Franklin Roosevelt or the creative genius of Leonardo da Vinci and, without question; I don't have the same funny bone as Robin Williams

It's true we are a group of individuals that grew up as only children. 

I just mentioned a small impressive list, but check out this hefty list of other famous only children. Like Betty White, Carol Burnett and Brooke Shields to name a few. 

Only children are, in many cases, the product of economic concerns. Family size has been shrinking since the 1960's and the number of only children has doubled in the last two decades. 

So many myths and stigmas have been attached to an only child. The most common is that only children are spoiled. 

I'll agree that only children may be used to getting all the attention, since they didn't have to compete with other siblings to get noticed. However, I've observed kids from multiple child families that are more spoiled than an only child. 

Coming from personal experience, I can tell you my parents made a point to not spoil me based on this stereotype. However, it is most likely true that only children may have a hard time sharing.

We grew up not having to share food, toys and the like, so therefore, what's ours is ours. Since my dad was the oldest of 5 and my mom the only girl among 3 boys, they were able to find many teachable moments for me as an only child to make sure I didn’t get too comfortable with having everything to myself. Sharing really isn’t the issue...it’s mostly that only children are used to their own space and may be particular to having things a certain way. 

While researching this subject, I read this list of 30 Things Only An Only Child Would Understand. I found I could relate to many of them. 

Thoughts About Being An Only Child

Only children can be extremely loyal friends. We treat close friends like brothers or sisters. It may seem weird to people who have siblings, but I have found myself reaching out to friends hoping to find that family bond connection with them. I try to keep that in check as I don't want them to have that "uncomfortable” feeling or fear that I may show up lurking around their family reunion buffet table. Kidding, I wouldn’t do that! The invitation is in the mail...right?

We prefer to avoid conflict. I didn't grow up with sibling torment, so I’ve never been one interested in arguing. However, my dad and uncles used this as a teachable moment and often riddled me with a little torment to make sure I didn't get off too easy. Afterwards, it’s possible I'd sit quietly alone to plot my revenge.  I believe I did do this!

We don't mind being alone. I never considered this being something that others had trouble with. I grew up doing many things on my own and it wasn't until my adult years that I realized some people are uneasy with being alone. As a kid, I would disappear to my room for hours to listen to music, read or write secrets in my diary. This didn’t seem unusual to me. But, I think my parents worried I was either secretly plotting revenge against them or that I weirdly enjoyed my own company.  It was, most likely, both!

We had imaginary friends. Didn't everyone? Okay, honestly, I don't think I ever named them, but I did find ways to entertain myself by crafting games or coming up with imaginary situations. This explains the time spent in my room – of course...I was entertaining “friends.” Ha!

We are old souls. Only children are used to being in the presence of adults, which may help in developing social and verbal skills at an early age. As a teenager, I always felt comfortable socializing at the kitchen table with my parent’s friends and was always a captive listener. So, it’s not surprising that only children may sometimes be more mature than their peers. Mingling around the kitchen table was where all the fun was happening. And..let’s just say some things can’t be unheard!

Prefer non-competitive activities. I remember never being particularly interested in competitive sports in school. I always wanted to play for fun. If it wasn't going to be fun, I wasn’t interested. I’m sure this goes back to avoiding conflict. There’s a probable chance that only children, myself included, like to be in control and weren’t used to competing with other siblings for attention. Again, my dad made sure I didn’t feel too left out of some competitive rivalry. Stealing bacon from each other’s plate often turned into a competitive ruckus at the table.

The Birth Order Effect - Where Do You Fit In?

After researching the traits of only children, it’s interesting how I have become to understand myself a little better. That means understanding the positive traits along with the ones that are recognized as self-serving. 

If we dig a little deeper, I think everyone could place themselves with certain personality traits based on if they are the oldest, middle, youngest or an only child. 

Sometimes, you’ll find that the oldest child and an only child will have similar personality traits. And, quite often the youngest or the baby of the family may be considered as being babied or receive less discipline than the others.

Click the link to see The Birth Order Effect chart and some of the common personality traits for each.

How about you, do you recognize certain personality traits based on where you fall in birth order?

Are you an only child, can you relate?

I'd love to see your comments below. 😍 

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  1. I love this discussion. I was in the middle of 3, but the only girl. So that gave me some glory. The family I analyze the most was my own. Two girls and then a son. But he came later and so my second daughter was like the baby of the family. You could not call her a middle child--as I was. Birth order does affect how we mature. But in my family, my oldest is the quiet one. The middle child noisy and wild. My son. Normal. LOL. All are loved.

    1. Beth, my mother was the only girl in the middle of boys too and I suspect she got a little bit of glory, as well (daddy's girl). But, I'm thinking she also fell into the role of peace-maker and was a go with the flow type...sort of a middle child trait. Like you, I've analyzed these traits with my own kids. I only have two, but I see how their birth order does affect their personality. I love how you pointed out that your youngest is the "normal" one - funny. So glad you stopped by and shared your thoughts on the subject.

    2. Youngest child. I really felt more like a middle kid though. Not much babying. A healthy dose of parental expectations + guidance kept me pretty grounded.

  2. I’m an only child and my son is, too. My childhood friends, for the most part, were middle children. My husband, on the other hand, is the oldest of four. I do enjoy being alone and spent a lot of time in my room ‘making movies’ With my toys.

    1. I've never noticed any of my friends being any particular birth placement. They've all been different. But, that's an interesting point you brought up. I rarely meet someone my age that is an only child, so when I do, I get a little enthusiastic about it. Haha! By the way 'making movies' topic - I used to pretend I was the actress 'in' the movies. Lol

  3. That's a fascinating study on birth order. I'm a middle child and only girl to 4 boys and I love being alone. Must be caused by never getting any privacy.

    1. Rena, you're probably right. Being the only girl may have put in survival mode. Haha! I can't imagine what they may have been like growing up with 4 brothers. Yikes!

  4. I have always been fascinated by "birth order" interpretations and eagerly read your blog entry. I confess to be the youngest of 5 daughters and recognize the privilege it brought. I am the last of the "Baby Boomers" in my immediate family and took advantage of observing my old sisters attempts and participation of life in general. I took many vows in the formative years that I would never make their choices or what I may have thought of as their "mistakes". I prefer to think of myself as being "the exception that proves the rule" in that with this experience of observation I became the "social secretary", decision maker, peace maker, health advocate, power of attorney and the breast cancer survivor. Life's experiences I believe, make up the "Who we are roles in life" along with the grace and mercy of God. Thanks for the food for thought!

    1. Dee, key word "observation" or recognizing your position. As I mentioned above when researching the only child syndrome, "it’s interesting how I have become to understand myself a little better. That means understanding the positive traits along with the ones that are recognized as self-serving." I completely agree life experiences shape us, but sometimes our reactions to these experiences come from a place or a personal role we have become accustom to. Observing, being self-aware, and making personal adjustments can be a difficult step to take. And, yes, many times it's out of our control. Control is not an easy thing to give up. These are the times, it truly is in God's hands. Dee, I love your insight ~ also, good food for thought. Thanks for commenting and sharing :)

  5. Josh and I read this together, he identified with some of the only child characters. Interesting read!

    1. Awesome Juls and that's neat that you shared with Josh too! It is interesting some of the common traits of only children. Birth order may have an affect on our personality more than we think. Thanks you so much for taking the time to comment.


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