by Lauren Sandler, Psychology Today, June 12, 2013
Some myths die hard. Others don’t die at all. In 1895, in a study entitled Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children, G. Stanley Hall, the first president of the American Psychological Association, proclaimed that “it will be noticed that creatures which have large families, whether beast or birds, have less trouble in rearing them than those which have only one or two young.” In a lecture delivered more than a decade later, Hall declared “Being an only child is a disease in itself.” A cottage industry of parenting literature, journalist Lauren Sandler reminds us, “sprung up in the fallow provinces of Hall’s child study movement.” Although researcher Norman Fenton produced evidence in 1928 that only children tended to be more generous, sociable, and self-assured than kids with siblings, almost no one listened. Although subsequent studies have confirmed his conclusions, Sandler points out that the stereotypes of the selfish only child and the selfish parent of one have persisted into the twenty-first century. In a recent Gallup poll, 76 percent of Americans deemed being an only-child a serious disadvantage in life. And only 3 percent believe that a single child family is the ideal.