We often hear that an only child is more likely to be selfish and less sociable than peers who have brothers and sisters, but a new study belies that hypothesis.
According to earlier research, children in day care made new social contacts more easily if they had siblings. The authors of the new study wanted to test this hypothesis among older children, so they recruited over 13,000 American students in 1994 and 1995. The interviews were aimed at measuring children’s “popularity” by asking them to name up to five male and five female friends, and then tallying the number of votes each child got. The authors noted that children were named an average of five times by their peers and that the presence of siblings had no influence on the number of votes received. So even if there are no brothers and sisters at home, an only child can learn social skills at school, during extracurricular activities or when playing with friends.
Social skills are essential to leading a rich and full life. They allow us to know what to say, how to make good choices and resolve conflicts, and how to behave in various situations. Children learn most of their positive skills through their day-to-day interactions with adults and peers, but it’s important for their parents and teachers to reinforce positive behaviours that will help them throughout their lives. The good news is that children who don’t have any siblings are not disadvantaged when learning social skills.