Being an only child presents vast challenges and scrutiny as an adult. If you’re an only child, it’s very likely that you would have heard at least two statements of judgement throughout the course of your adult life. One being, “oooh, that explains it,” and the other, “you don’t act like an only child.” This is attributed to the idea that you suffer from what’s been coined only child syndrome (OCS). Below are a few misconceptions and truths about adults who grew up as only children.


1. People automatically assume we’re spoilt.

Being spoilt has nothing to do with whether or not you’re an only child. This assumption is concocted by those who grew up with siblings. A rationale that assumes that because you didn’t have to “share all your precious toys” with another person you must be spoilt. The thing is, spoilt is spoilt, no matter how many kids are raised in a family. The way one is bought up all depends on parenting styles, financial means and individual family values.

2. People automatically assume we’re selfish.

Contrary to popular belief most moderately raised only kids tend to be overtly kind. They’ve consistently been given the impression that their lives have been easier than everyone else’s and in many ways grow to feel a slight obligation to be kind . As a result, they often find it inexcusable to say no and often say yes to favors or requests without enough regard for whether or not they’d actually care to do so. Only kids also tend to be people-pleasers. Whether or not it’s to negate claims of selfishness or an actual psychological impact from their childhood years, it’s hard to say.

3. Most every reaction we have is attributed to misconceptions of our upbringing.

As they get older only kids are constantly judged. As an adult they cultivate personalities in which they quickly learn that they can’t control other people’s perceptions. As a result, they then have one of two reactions to what people think of them. They either don’t find it important or they develop a perpetual need to conform.

4. We’re most likely achievement oriented.

Studies have shown that only children tend to be more achievement oriented,  one of many traits they share with first-borns. This is because they are only children, literally. All their parent(s) hopes and dreams have relied solely on expectations of them. There are no fall back kids, no the bright one or the athletic one, just them. Because they are their parent(s) everything they’ve been raised to meet high expectations and continue to set these expectations for themselves.

5. Patience is just not our virtue.

It’s true, we do have an almost crippling desire for instant gratification. While most of us aren’t zero tolerance, there’s a lot we just can’t be bothered with. This is the attribute that often gets only kids called out for being selfish.

6. We have a total disregard for anyone’s feelings or thoughts but our own.

That is sooo mostly NOT true. We don’t like to argue. Rather, we don’t really trust anyone else’s ability to argue without their feelings being irreparable hurt. As a result, when it becomes apparent that neither of us are going to end up on the same page, we’re done. It’s not a disregard for your thoughts. We’ve heard them. We’ve processed them. We don’t agree and we’re ready to move on. Just because it doesn’t take us a long time to recoil and/or move forward doesn’t mean we don’t care.

7. Alone time and/or moments of silence are detrimentally essential.

Only children have spent most of their formative lives being self-reliant. That is, we’re pretty used to dealing with our shit on our own. When we’re upset all we want is to be alone. The less time we’re allowed to deal, the more furious we get. We’ll talk it out, promise….just not right now, okay.

8. We’re not anti-social and we’re not altogether introverts.

We’re not shy and we’re pretty far from anti-social. As a matter of fact, most only children are actually quite popular. However, we’re overtly conscious of personal boundaries and have extreme reservations about invading people’s space. Chances are unless a little liquid courage is involved we won’t be readily approaching anyone in unfamiliar settings.

9. Attention seeking behavior is nonsensical to us.

Of course it is.  After all,  we never really had to vie for attention at home. It kinda was all about us, so we don’t grow up with the same insecurities or need to stand out. The push to be our parents every accomplishment kinda solved that for us.  We learnt to rely on accomplishments to get us most of the attention we need. For the most part, most only kids shy away from attention or situations that offer a potential for rejection.

10. We’re really good at keeping secrets.

When you’re in a close relationship it’s natural to share things with each other. Growing up with a sibling, it’s almost second nature to gab to your sis or bro without giving thought to private boundaries. Even though only children have no issues developing substantial friendships and often consider their best friends the siblings they choose, it’s not as natural for us to gossip.

11. We’re unforgiving.

Only children are often given the inaccurate distinction of being unforgiving. That too is quite untrue. In some ways, only kids don’t need people in the way many others do. We don’t develop a sense of codependency and are far more content “doing bad all by ourselves.” We’re not zero tolerance people, we just have a far better understanding of what our deal breakers are and are far better at identifying/isolating toxic relationships. On the other hand, compromising doesn’t come that easy to us either.

12. We’re more mature.

Only children tend to be more mature; simply because they’ve spent far more of their formative years with adults. As a result, adults who grew up as only children can often be found surrounded by friends outside of their age group.

At the end of the day, though different “categories” of persons may share the same attributes, that in no way can be expected to define anyone person. There are far more psychological studies today that negate the aforementioned impressions of person’s who grow up as only children.

Are you or someone you know and only child? What are your thoughts on adults with OCS?