Dispelling the Myths of Only Children
Imagine you have a child, and are not sure if you want to have another one. But you think you should because it’s best for a child to have a sibling, right? Wrong, say Bill McKibben and other experts. The bias against only children has an interesting history, and began in the late 1800s with psychologist Stanley Hall. He was the Victorian era’s “Dr. Spock.” He did a study of “peculiar and exceptional children” with 1,045 child subjects. “Peculiar and exceptional” was loosely defined from reasons that were psychological or physical. Forty-six out of the 1,045 (about 4 percent) were only children, which, according to him, was a “number entirely out of proportion to children generally.” He concluded that an only child is very likely to be peculiar and exceptional. Even though his study many that followed did not stand up to the rigors of good research, the idea stuck, and the conventional wisdom to this day has been that it isn’t good to have an only child.
Better studies to date say otherwise. Toni Falbo, a professor at the University of Texas and her colleague Denise Polit looked at past studies more closely. They analyzed 115 studies of only children in the U.S. across class and race from 1925 onward. The studies looked at adjustment, character, sociability, achievement, and intelligence variables. They found that only children “aren’t measurably different from other kids” except that they, “along with firstborns and people who have only one sibling, score higher in measures of intelligence and achievement.” They are no more likely to be lonely, shy, unpopular, selfish, or maladjusted than children with siblings. They also found that the “personalities of only children were indistinguishable from their peers with siblings.” No published research can demonstrate any truth behind the stereotypes.
This needs to become more well-known so more people will consider having only one biological child. People need to see that it isn’t only all right to have one child, but it is also doing right by that child. As McKibben argues, more single-child families are necessary so that they and their parents will be more likely to live in a sustainable world.
As the book The Baby Matrix argues, parents who want to have more than one biological child need to look harder at why they feel this way. Is it because they didn’t get the gender one or both parents wanted with first one? Now more than ever, it is important for those who think they want more than one child to answer what need are they filling for themselves, and why they would put themselves and what they want first, knowing the impact of bringing another child into the world. It’s also important for them to ask themselves if their need could be filled in a way other than a second biological child. For example, how about filling that need by parenting a child who is already here? The myths about adoption need to be tackled as well.
About the Author:
Laura Carroll is the author of The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds From Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction will Create a Better World, Families of Two: Interviews With Happily Married Couples Without Children by Choice, and Finding Fulfillment From the Inside Out.
In addition to writing nonfiction books, she has worked over the last 15 years as a business and litigation psychology consultant and used her expertise in behavioral sciences, psychology, and communications to advise business, legal, and nonprofit professionals on their communications strategies and goals.
Laura is a seasoned leader of personal and professional development seminars, and has appeared on a variety of television shows, including Good Morning America and The Early Show. She has been a guest on many radio talk shows to discuss social science topics.
You’ll also find her online at her nonfiction book site, LiveTrue Books, and her top blog, La Vie Childfree.
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In the movie The Matrix, the character Morpheus offers two pills to Neo—if he takes the blue pill, he will go on with life as he has before, believing what he has always believed. If he takes the red pill, he will find out what the “matrix” really is, and many of his earlier beliefs will be shattered. When it comes to taking a hard look at a specific set of beliefs about parenthood and reproduction that has driven our society for generations, The Baby Matrix is the red pill.
We commonly think our desire to have children boils down to our biological wiring, but author Laura Carroll says it’s much more than that. Unlike other books on parenthood, The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds From Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction Will Create a Better World takes a serious look at powerful social and cultural influences that drive the desire for the parenthood experience, and lays out why we need to be very aware of these influences to make the most informed decisions about parenthood.
The Baby Matrix looks at long-held beliefs about parenthood and reproduction, and unravels why we believe what we believe. It lays out:
- the historical origins of beliefs about parenthood and reproduction
- why many of these beliefs no longer work for society or were never true in the first place
- why we continue to believe them anyway
- the prices society pays as a result
“This is not a book about convincing people not to have children,” says Carroll. “I want people to be very aware of the long-held social and cultural pressures, and be able to free themselves from those pressures when making parenthood choices. This will result in more people making the best decisions for themselves, will foster a society in which those who are best suited to become parents are the ones who have children and one that knows what it means to bring a child into the world today.”
This book will make you examine your own intentions and beliefs, will rile you, and might just change your mind. Whether you are already a parent, want to become a parent, are still making up your mind, or know you don’t want children, you’ll never think about parenthood in the same way.
The Baby Matrix is a must-read for anyone interested in psychology, sociology, anthropology, parenting issues, environmentalism, and social justice. But most of all, it’s for anyone, parent or not, who reveres the truth and wants the best for themselves, their families, and our world.
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