The (L)only ones

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Grace Vance

When freshman Faith Wright thinks back to a few years ago, it is not with fond memories.
“I went through a pretty weird stage in my life,” Wright said. “I was ugly, had braces and wore glasses. Back then I never thought of myself that way, but looking back at pictures and videos I can honestly say that I am very glad that I am done with that part of my life.”
Everyone has had an awkward stage in his or her life, whether it was in middle school or high school, and going through that stage when you have a sibling is not easy.
The key to becoming a clear minded adult is going through the process of growing up, and a large part of those changes are determined from the order in which you were born. Birth order greatly affects one’s personality, according to a research study done by the University of Maine in 2005.
The research shows interesting factors to birth orders.
Firstborns are known to be natural leaders, having strong qualities such as being reliable and confident. However, firstborns often seek the approval of others. Unlike firstborns, middle children are rebellious and do not take others’ approval seriously. Those who are the last borns, also known as the “baby of the family,” are inclined to be the most audacious and tend to be very social and outgoing.
Out of those mentioned above, there is one significant group that has been left out – those who are without siblings. What about only children? Does growing up without siblings affect a child’s personality?
“A lot of people assume that only children are selfish and only care about themselves, but I definitely don’t consider myself as that kind of a person,” Wright, an only child, said. “A lot of times I put my thoughts aside and focus on what my friends are feeling, which is not something that a selfish person would do.”
Growing up as an only child is a lot different than growing up with siblings. Senior Lily Farnen, who grew up as an only child, has a much different life than Lydia Thompson, a sophomore who grew up alongside three siblings. Farnen’s household has always been fairly quiet, as opposed to Thompson’s chaotic and busy home, where she always had someone to talk to and hang out with. Because she grew up in this kind of an environment, Thompson said, she admits she is not used to the idea of being alone.
“It’s very rare for me to ever feel alone since I have so many siblings,” Thompson said. “My siblings and I are always there for each other and sometimes I do wonder how I will be able to live my life without them.”
Unlike Thompson, Farnen has been on her own all her life. This, she said, has led her to become an independent person, which she values. She notes that not having siblings to share experiences with has taught her how to deal with things without the help of others. Farnen also stresses the importance of being able to work on one’s own two feet.
“It’s kind of boring not having a sibling around; however, it has taught me how to be independent,” Farnen said. “I feel very comfortable doing things on my own, and I think that is really important in the real world.”
The writer of How Birth Order Shapes Personality. Natalie Lorenzi, a regular writer with  American Baby Magazine said this is in fact the case. She said not having siblings to grow up with often times has an effect on a person’s social skills and interaction with others. Lorenzi also mentioned that a parent’s undivided attention can change a child’s family dynamic.
“Disadvantages [of being an only child] might include being less willing to compromise with peers in some situations,” Lorenzi said. She said this happens “especially since only children are not used to arguing on the same level that children with siblings do.”
The research study from the University of Maine mentioned above illuminates similarities between firstborns and children who grow up without siblings.
The two groups display commonalities where they are not likely to go against their parent’s rule and take risks. The reasoning behind this is that firstborns are often raised the same way only children are, yet parents do not know if they will continue to add to the family.
“My best friend rarely breaks the rules in her family and has a very good relationship with her parents,” sophomore Kaitlyn Rothwell, a firstborn, said. “I think a part of the reason is that her parents did not have another child to pay attention to, which let them to be a lot more strict with the one child that they did have.”
Sophomore Grace Menard, the youngest in her family, has seen similar characteristics in the relationship she sees with her close friend and her parents.
“My best friend, who is the oldest kid in her family, has always listened to her parents and has really valued their opinion,” Menard said. “I never thought that her being the firstborn had anything to do with it, but now it makes sense why that is.”
Lauren Sandler, the author of One and Only, the Freedom of Having an Only Child and Being One, said the role parents play in raising their children definitely shapes the family dynamic. Sandler, being an only child and having an only child, has a lot of experience with the topic in addition to being an author and journalist on similar topics.
“Parents are significantly more careful when they are raising their first child,” Sandler said. “Parents are quite careful when raising their first child because raising kids is not something they are used to. After the birth of their second child, parents tend to let loose and become a lot more easy going when it comes to raising kids. Firstborns and only children are raised under a strict environment, so they are less likely rebel and break the rules.”
Farnen has experienced this very thing in her life. Having these experiences shaped her to be the independent person she is currently.
“To this day, my parents really pour their attention solely on me, which led me to become really close with them,” Farnen said. However, “both of my parents are pretty strict because of the fact that I’m the only child they have.”
Just like any other group of people, only children are often faced with stereotypes. These stereotypes include the child being considered lonely, reserved or selfish; however, research shows that none of those traits are particularly more pronounced in only children.
“Being an only child, you have to break away from the stereotype that only children are brats,” Farnen said. “My parents raised me to be kind and well behaved, and I would not be able to be friends with the people that I am if I acted like a brat.”
By Katie Topouria
art by Shelby Yount