July 11, 2006 — -- Are only children spoiled, selfish and lonely, or smarter and more loving?
The number of American women who have only one child has doubled over the last two decades, even though only children often bear the brunt of nasty stereotypes.
The assessment is not necessarily true, said psychologist Susan Newman, author of the book "Parenting an Only Child."
Many studies show that only children are no more self-centered or spoiled than others, Newman said. Some studies suggest only kids tend to have closer, more affectionate relationships with their parents than kids from bigger families.
Only children often develop better verbal skills and excel in school because they are read to more often than children with siblings, she said.
Only children also tend to have higher IQs, which researchers say may be because their parents have higher expectations for them and more time and money to give.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, for families that make roughly $60,000 a year, each child costs more than $250,000 by the time he or she reaches 18, and that doesn't include college costs.
Newman said children cost their parents $50,000 in food alone by the time they hit 18.
"Twenty percent of the family population is one child," Newman said. "In the major metropolitan cities, like New York and Los Angeles, that number is 30 percent. People are having children later, which leaves less time for having the second child. Housing is expensive. The divorce rate hovers at 50 percent. Often both parents are working, and child care is a factor."
Children from larger families also enjoy some advantages, which include having playmates and tormenters, teammates and rivals. Siblings define each other and teach each other conflict resolution, which is a skill people bring to their workplaces, marriages and other relationships.
If a couple decides to have only one child, Newman said, they should make sure the child has sibling substitutes from whom to learn sharing, empathy and conflict resolution.