September 18, 2019

Is Only-Child Syndrome Real?

“Only children always want to get their way, can’t share and are generally selfish—or so the long-held prejudice goes. According to recent research, however, these claims are overstated. So where did these biases come from?

In A Study of Peculiar and Exceptional Children published in the 19th century by educator E. W. Bohannon from Clark University in Massachusetts, detailed the results of a questionnaire—a new form of data collection at the time—filled out by 200 test subjects. In it he had asked respondents about the peculiarities of any only children they knew. In 196 cases participants described children without siblings as excessively spoiled.

Bohannon’s colleagues agreed with the results and the idea took hold. The widespread skepticism toward only children was further strengthened by the fact middle-class families were having fewer children and society’s privileged class feared growth of the population’s “inferior strata.” Furthermore, in the early 20th century, some were concerned that growing up without siblings causes children to become hypersensitive: If the parents concentrated all their worries and fears on one offspring, that child would become overly sensitive and eventually a hypochondriac with weak nerves.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Congratulations, Mr. President. It took an extraordinary effort, but you finally managed to spark a serious global crisis. I know you don’t like to share credit, but don’t worry. The current mess in the Middle East centered around Iran is all..."

"We’re approaching the anniversary of one of the nastiest political battles it has been my misfortune to witness—the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault and his..."

"There are few one-offs in life on Earth—rarely can a single species boast a trait or ability that no other possesses. But human language is one such oddity. Our ability to use subtle combinations of sounds produced by our vocal cords to create..."

"He walked through the coffee shop door and scanned the crowd. A familiar smile bloomed as he recognized me, despite how my appearance had changed over the years. I’m bald and bearded now, and heavier. I wear an extra decade on my face, and I’m..."

"The poverty rate in the United States fell to 11.8 percent in 2018, according to data released last week by the Census Bureau — the lowest it’s been since 2001. But this estimate significantly understates the extent of economic deprivation in..."

"Streaming is the future of TV. But for now a big part of the streaming business revolves around old TV shows. Latest case in point: Netflix is paying a lot of money for the rights to show Seinfeld to its 150 million subscribers around the world..."

"On the eve of the second Israeli election of 2019, there is no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric about the potential consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election. From the New York Times' editorial column to The Forward’s..."

"Is there a backlash toward the technology industry in the culture? I tend to think so, having written about its various twists and turns most weekdays for the past couple years now. But sometimes an obsession with a beat can lead to myopia, and..."