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What It’s Like to Be an Only Child

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

When people learn that I am an only child, stereotypes begin to spin in their heads about what my life might be like. Many people associate negative qualities with children raised without siblings. 


First of all, people believe being raised without siblings causes you to become selfish and spoiled. People think the only child gets anything and everything they want. They also stereotype us as being bossy, selfish, antisocial and lonely. However, this is not all correct!


Being raised without siblings does not make us inferior in any way. We simply have a different childhood experience than many of you, but the same thing could be said about people from different ethnic backgrounds, religions, and cultural groups. In fact, I have many friends who are only children, and we have all turned out alright — at least, as normal as can be expected. 


Here is the truth about being an only child. 

We have an overactive imagination. 

Many of the only children I know, including myself, enjoy partaking in creative activities. Since we didn’t have siblings to play with, we ended up playing by ourselves and making up fun scenarios and games in our heads. 

We are comfortable talking to and being around adults. 

Only children spend a majority of their time growing up with adults. This allows us to be comfortable talking to elders. Most of us gain maturity at a young age since we are exposed to older role models instead of older siblings. 


In many ways, we look at the world differently than our peers. From a young age, we have been influenced by the perspectives of many generations, from our great grandparents down to our parents.

We compete against ourselves more than anyone else.

We are hard on ourselves. Instead of having sibling rivalries, we gave ourselves high expectations to meet. We always want to succeed and make ourselves and our families proud. Peers are not our biggest competitors compared to the expectations made against ourselves. 

We are independent. 

Only children learn to complete tasks on their own. We learn accountability from an early age, as we cannot blame broken lamps or uncompleted chores on our siblings. Instead, we take charge and learn to be self-reliant, at least in some ways. 

We are comfortable with peace and quiet. 

Our households usually only hold our parents and us (and maybe some furry friends). This means our home lives are rather quiet and free of excessive noise and drama. The calm and quiet atmosphere can produce introverts. We are simply comfortable being alone and spending our evenings indoors. 

We form close relationships with friends. 

Throughout my time in school, I only had a handful of friends. However, the friendships I made tended to be strong and long-lasting. 


Many only children create their own makeshift sibling bonds with their friends. Friends often become our own unbiological brothers and sisters, and that’s just the way we like it. 

We are not selfish.

Only children may be more selfish as children because we needed to learn to share with others. However, like every other child, we grow out of this phase quite quickly. As adults, we understand how to share like everyone else in the world. 

Life can be boring, but it’s what we are used to.

Being an only child is all we know. Over the years, we find new ways to entertain ourselves. Many only children also have closer relationships with their parents than other children their age. 

We do not get everything we want, but we do have more opportunities. 

My parents do not get me everything I want, and many other only children are in the same situation. If I went up to my parents and asked for an expensive new iPhone, they wouldn’t just put it in the shopping cart. We don’t always get EVERYTHING we want. 


Only children usually get their “number one” gifts on their Christmas and birthday list because they are the only ones their parents have to buy for. This is one reason why only children are deemed spoiled. 


In a way, I understand the label. Growing up, I did get a lot of the things I asked for. However, I also did chores and learned the value of a dollar. 


At the same time, most only children get to do the activities and extracurriculars they want to because their parents have the time and capabilities to get them around and support them. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do everything I’ve done in my life if I had a sibling.

We don’t understand why we get a bad rap.

I’ve had conversations with people who say, “You’re an only child? I never would have guessed that. You don’t act like one.” How does an only child act? 


Apparently, the movies and television shows have given us a bad rap. Most of us turn out quite normal. Well, you can be the judge of that.

Although having another sibling could have been fun, I cherish and love my childhood as an only child.

Julia is a Penn State student double majoring in English and Journalism. She enjoys reading, writing, and volunteering with Relay for Life in her free time.
Arden Ericson will graduate Penn State in May of 2023. As one of the Campus Correspondents for Her Campus at PSU, she is a double-major in Public Relations and French Language. After graduation, she will pursue a career that combines her passion for educational equity, social justice and French.