The Upside of Having Only One Child

Some parents are happy with several littles, while others are satisfied with just one. However, research shows there are many benefits of having only one child.


My son was an only child for five years before we decided to try for a second. Like many parents, I wanted my son to have a friend to grow up with and form that oh-so-special sibling bond. My first son was a breeze to take care of, and so I thought my second would be too. I soon discovered that caring for a newborn with a young child constantly at my heels was not easy at all.

It’s no surprise that more and more parents are opting for the “only child” approach. Consider the perks: you only have to deal with the sleepless newborn stage once and the terrible toddler stage once. You also only have to pay for one child’s Christmas and birthday gifts. As your child approaches adulthood, you only need to pay for one first car and one kid’s college tuition. If that alone doesn’t turn you off to having multiples, I don’t know what will.

While the American family once had an average of four children, this number has dwindled in recent years.

Today, 22 percent of mothers at the end of their childbearing years have only one child, a two-fold increase from 11 percent in 1976, according to the Pew Research Center. While having multiple children can be rewarding, many parents prefer the benefits of having just one child.

What the Experts Say

Having a big family is not for everyone. For many parents, one child is the perfect amount. While there is no wrong or right amount of children to have, there are some undeniable benefits of having only one child. Here’s what some experts have to say:

“To be brutally honest, we’re reluctant to have more children because we think that the pain outweighs the gain. When people compare the grief that another child would give them to the joy that the child would bring, they conclude that it’s just not worth it.”

Bryan Caplan, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids


“Parents who consider stopping with one child are likely to find themselves on the defensive because many people believe that children without siblings are at a disadvantage and are more likely to be selfish and spoiled. However, an established and growing body of evidence indicates that people who make these claims are misinformed.”

Susan Newman, Ph.D., The Case of the Only Child


“When one combines the obstacles to bearing or adopting with women’s desire to achieve and consequently putting off pregnancy, the high divorce rate, and the potential complications of second marriages and blended families, it’s easy to understand the swift increase in the number of only children in our society.”

Susan Newman, Parenting an Only Child

“The way in which the only child develops is shaped by the same factor that influences all children – that factor is the parents, and it can be said boldly that the effects of parenting are magnified on the only child because there are no other children around to dilute those effects.”

Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D., The Future of Your Only Child


“A sibling relationship is actually one of the best vehicles for children to learn how to navigate relationship struggles and to learn about conflict resolution as they grow up, so many single children will miss out on this opportunity unless they socialize extensively with other children or child relatives who serve almost as honorary siblings.”

Seth Meyers, Psy.D., Having Only One Child


Have More One-On-One Time

One of the biggest advantages of having just one child is the ability to spend more one-on-one time with him or her. Quality time is not always easy for parents with multiple littles.

Having to split your attention between several kiddos can mean that some children do not get the amount of personal attention they need. Research shows that kids who receive personal attention are more likely to have higher IQs, improved self-esteem, and academic success.

Form a Closer Attachment

When you have multiple children to tend to, it can be more difficult to form a cl0se bond with certain children. When you only have one child, you are more likely to become attached to that child. Many parents with one child are able to spend more time with that child, resulting in a stronger bond.

Raise a Confident, Self-Assured Child

Adults who were only children tend to grow up to be confident, self-assured adults. As your child grows, he or she is constantly being showered with love and affection. This often results in a close family without common issues like sibling rivalry. Your child’s confidence and self-esteem will likely continue to develop into adulthood.

Experience Less Financial Stress

You already know the costs of raising a child are high. The more children you have, the higher these costs will be. Having only one child helps to reduce the burden of raising multiple children and the costs associated with siblings. One child requires less food, fewer gifts, and lower childcare and education costs. With more money available, only children may also have access to more opportunities in life.

If you are happy with your family dynamic with one child, you may be hesitant to have another. For many parents, one child is all that is needed to make the family feel complete.


Brandy Dishaw

Brandy is a content specialist and proud mother of two children. She enjoys writing engaging content on parenting, children’s health, and educational topics, and has been published on websites like Modern Mom, Yahoo! Shine, and With more than a decade of experience as a writer and mom, she combines research and personal experience to provide her audience with insight to the world of parenting.

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