A Unique Breed

7 Personality Traits Of Only Children As Adults That Prove We Don’t Deserve The Bad Rap

We're selfish in a good way.

Originally Published: 
Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Getty Images, Shutterstock

Only children get a bad rap, and I should know because I am one. For example, when my parents bought me a new winter coat in the seventh grade, I was immediately shamed for it by my classmates. "You're an only child, so you're spoiled," they said to me (never mind the fact I had undergone a growth spurt and needed a new coat so I wouldn't freeze to death). Such is the plight of the only child. We're often seen as selfish, spoiled, and self-involved — as if having siblings somehow makes you less of a jerk. Sure, OK.

With so many couples increasingly delaying parenthood, more families choose to have only one child. While some parents might worry about the future of their sibling-less children, I am here to tell you: Don't worry about it. I'm fine, and I'm sure your kids will be too. In fact, according to research (both personal and scientific), the majority of only children have higher levels of ambition, independence, character, and intelligence and are better adjusted to life's ups and downs. That's all without having to deal with sharing toys and wearing hand-me-downs. Not too shabby! And if you're stressed about your only child being less happy or lonely, don't be. Only children tend to have closer friendships and are just as happy — if not happier — than those who grow up with brothers and sisters.

Read on to learn more about some (reassuring) personality traits of only children as adults.

We are hyper-independent.

Growing up alone makes one hyper-independent... in a good way! We're not scared to try new things on our own and know we can rely on ourselves no matter what. Case in point: I've moved across the country — alone — twice within the last five years without breaking a sweat.

We are super ambitious.

Similar to firstborns, only children are innately ambitious. In fact, the Journal of Individual Psychology reveals that only children tend to outperform their peers academically. It could be because we didn't have to compete for our parents' attention and therefore could put more energy towards our goals. Whichever the case, we have an insane drive to succeed, which, yes, needs to be kept in check from time to time but will take us to big places.

We are sensitive.

OK, I'll admit: I don't react well when someone teases me. That's probably because I didn't grow up with siblings who would do that on the regular. So, yes, we might have thinner skin, but there's nothing wrong with being in touch with your feelings, either.

We are wise old souls.

Because we've been raised around adults, only children tend to be wise beyond their years. We have an "old soul" vibe about us, which helps us confront life's issues with a "big picture" mentality and take a lot of things in stride. No wonder my friends often come to me for advice.

We are well-adjusted.

Because only children don't have to compete for their parents' affection (given their parents are present and healthy), it's said that only children are able to regulate their emotions more easily, which helps establish emotional maturity at a younger age. It's true — my emotional stability helped prepare me to live on my own in a strange city during the pandemic (that, and a cat).

We know how to take care of our needs.

I will say this: Only children are selfish in the best possible way because we know how to take care of our needs. Because we didn't have to compete with siblings or contend with them invading our space, only children learn how to not only name their needs but also know how to put their needs first. Admittedly, I am the queen of self-care. I definitely make the time to ensure my emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental health is taken care of every day — and I'm grateful for that.

We treat our friends like family.

Only children aren't more or less lonely than those with siblings. On the contrary, only children tend to invest a lot of time and energy into their friendships. Many of their friends become like family! This is true for me. I have had a group of friends since I was 15 years old, and they are my family — we keep in contact regularly, we talk things out, and we show up when it counts.

The bottom line? Don’t let any noise about only child syndrome or how you’re depriving your kid of a sibling keep you from making the decision that’s right for your family. Only children often grow up to be badass adults, and we’ve got the research to back it up.

This article was originally published on