Individuals Who Grew Up as an 'Only Child' Usually Develop These 7 Traits as Adults, Psychologists Say

Although it may seem like everybody has siblings, there is a sizable chunk of the U.S. population that actually grew up as “only children” with no siblings at all. As Psychology Today reports, 20 percent of American households are one-child families.

If you grew up as an only child, or have a point of view on those who grew up as only children, you likely picture someone who has a tendency to be introverted or struggles to work with others. But as it turns out, any negative ideas about not adjusting well to adulthood after growing up as an only child are incorrect, as the psychologists we spoke with can attest. In fact, only children really shine as adults and accomplish truly astounding things.

What is Childhood Like for an Only Child?

Psychologist Dr. Brianna Gaynor grew up as an only child, and she remembers it being fun. “I enjoyed having my things, my mother's full attention and tons of friends,” she says. “As an only child, I was always involved in activities and had play dates to ensure I had strong social skills because socialization was important.” 

Dr. Gaynor also points out that only children can be extremely creative and develop the ability and enjoyment of being by themselves “that sometimes those with siblings have to learn to embrace or enjoy later in life.”

Psychologist Dr. Adolph “Doc” Brown, III, also believes that growing up as an only child is a positive experience, which goes against the common belief that being an only child is a negative one: in fact, as the Pew Research Center reported in 2015, 86 percent of people believe that families should have at least two children. Only children actually do just fine on their own, and even thrive.

Childhood for an only child with authoritative parents can be characterized by an experience of constant attention, and positive reinforcement, with promotion of creativity, healthy self-esteem and self-concept,” Dr. Brown says. “As a result of these parental-influenced behaviors, only children are likely to be more self-reliant, exploratory and self-efficacious.”

Related: What Your Sibling Birth Order Reveals About Your Personality Traits (Even if You're an Only Child)

Individuals Who Grew Up as an 'Only Child' Usually Develop These 7 Traits as Adults

1. More Maturity

“Adults who grew up as only children tend to be more mature based on adult attention and interactions that were not divided among other siblings,” Dr. Brown observes.

2. Independence

Independence is a big trait that many only children tend to develop as adults. As Dr. Gaynor says, as an only child, “You learn to take care of things and learn how to be self-sufficient because there is no other choice. As an adult, you are often a self-starter, reliable and able to handle and complete most tasks independently without needing or expecting additional help.”

But there is a caveat, according to Dr. Gaynor. She says that since you are so used to doing things independently, you may tend to not ask for help—something that we all need in life at times.

3. Achieving Lofty Goals

Dr. Gaynor says that only children can be “high achievers.”

“As an only child, the focus and attention is on you, which generally translates into not only a lot of focus and level of support in all needed areas (i.e., academic, social, athletic) from parents but a desire, in many cases, to please,” she says. “Therefore, only children tend to receive the help they need to succeed in school and have high goals for their future, especially when it is encouraged, a legacy or you are ‘the first.’ There's a lot of pressure, but it is a goal only children feel the need to live up to.”

Related: Here's What 'Golden Child Syndrome' Actually Is—and How It Might Affect You As An Adult

4. Recharging Batteries

Dr. Brown describes adult only children as “lone wolves,” since they were extremely self-sufficient as children who were resourceful in the absence of others.

That means that if you were an only child, you’re probably pretty comfortable spending time alone. In fact, since you were more used to being alone when you were growing up, it can be difficult to be around people sometimes, and you may find that you need to “recharge your batteries” after spending time with people.

“As an adult, time alone can not only be a desire, but necessary to your well-being,” Dr. Gaynor says. “Taking time to be alone, without others, or any other interactions, like phone calls or video, can be exactly what you need to de-stress, process information and fully rest.”

5. Better Friends

“As an only child, we sometimes imagine what it would be like to have a sibling,” Dr. Gaynor says. “Despite our enjoyment of independence, we still wonder. So essentially, our good friends are essential to us because they are our ‘siblings’ and our chosen family. Therefore, only children are often loyal and understanding, tend to be selfless and are willing to go to the ends of the earth for those we love.”

6. Known to be Trustworthy

Since you were often in charge and functioned independently as a child, adult only children tend to be reliable.

“They are usually very focused on representing themselves and their families or caregivers, as this has been a constant,” Dr. Gaynor says. “As such, keeping their commitments is integral. They can be counted on as adults, and when in need, they will be there for you.”

7. More Confidence

“The confidence levels of adult only children are sometimes higher than their counterparts as a result of the 'within-arms reach' reassurance and guidance of their parents and guardians,” Dr. Brown notes.

Related: People Who Felt Constantly Criticized as Children Usually Develop These 13 Traits as Adults, Psychologists Say

Why Do Only Children Thrive as Adults?

As you can tell from this list of traits, only children can go on to become amazing adults. Dr. Brown says that as adults, only children are likely to thrive “as the fundamental tenets of parenting are not challenged by competing siblings.”

“As adults, only children tend to be self-starters, hard workers and loyal and respectful friends,” Dr. Gaynor reflects. “They are also comfortable seeking time alone to refresh themselves and have learned to trust their inner voice. Only children thrive in setting and meeting goals they are passionate about and learning to enjoy their personhood irrespective of others.”

But keep in mind that this may not be the case for all only children. As Dr. Gaynor says, “Everything doesn't apply to everyone. There are pros and cons to being an only child versus having siblings. What's most important is fostering the experiences that help us grow and challenge us. So whether that means developing stronger social networks or efficiency with work skills, we all have the divine ability to strengthen the areas we struggle in and live the life we desire and deserve.”

Next up, discover the traits that introverted children usually display as adults.