When you have more than one child, you tend to notice the differences between the children in personality and mannerisms. They can be very different from one another, even though they have the same set of parents raising them.

When a child has no siblings, there are some very special characteristics that develop. For one, an only child does not need to give up their share of the attention from mom and dad to a new baby. Read on to see more personality traits of an only child.

Only Child Characteristics 

Families with only one child have been growing from about 1960. This is probably because of increased living costs, personal choice and women conceiving at an older age. There tends to be a stigma with only children and people tend to give a negative response to describe only children. The popular thought is that only children are “spoiled.” However, experts do report that only children do have some very positive personality traits.

1. Confidence and Self-Esteem

There is evidence that children without any siblings tend to have a higher sense of self-esteem than in families with more than one child. It may look like spoiling to some, but the copious amounts of attention only children receive actually help them to feel better about themselves. When they do not have to share their parent’s, they develop a very strong sense of self-esteem.

2. Sense of Privacy

When a child does not have to share his or her room with another child, they often have a higher sense of privacy. They tend to be more private than other kids with siblings and they require more privacy and personal space. It doesn’t mean they are spoiled and unable to share, they just need more space.

3. Higher Academic Achievement

Studies do not show proof of children without siblings being any smarter than families with multiple children. However, only children show more strength when it comes to high levels of achievement. One theory supports that parents with only one child spend more time and money on education since they don’t have to split up their time between children. On the parent’s side of this, they tend to expect more out of an only child education wise. Only children show higher testing scores and a higher rate of college admission.


Only children show a higher level of independence since they do not have siblings to become co-dependent on. While it is recommended that they receive adequate socialization by attending play dates, they still tend to be more independent. Only children learn how to be by themselves and self-entertain. They do keep lots of friends, but also enjoy their time alone.

5. More Organized

Only children show more attention to the details and organizing their things. They are often “on-time” and have strong life skills. So long as parents do not coddle or do too much for them, they will learn about life very quickly and model the adult behavior.

6. Possible Negative Only Child Characteristics

An only child can show some negative traits like having a hard time with sharing their things. Even when they are not in a competitive situation, they always like to be the first chosen. You may notice an only child will be overly sensitive, have a hard time with criticism and be somewhat demanding. This may carry on into adulthood.

What should parents do? While an only child may have negative traits in their personality, parents can help them along by socializing their child and teaching them skills like sharing, teamwork and coping skills. This helps to increase the positive personality traits and minimize the negative ones. It is important that families with an only child not spoil them and help them learn to think of others and take responsibility for their actions and themselves.

7. Socializing in Only Child

Only children tend prefer being alone. This may not be healthy for them and isolation may prevent them from developing social skills. They may have a harder time developing interpersonal relationships and carry this into adulthood. Allowing an only child to socialize and interact with other kids will help them develop social skills and connections with other people.

How to Parent Your Only Child

1. Let Your Child Be an Individual

You may tend to see your child as an extension of yourself. It is important to allow only children to find themselves and their own sense of individuality. You may be tempted to push your child to do the things you always wanted to do, but they need to find the things they like and want to do.

2. Use the Word “No” (If Needed) and Be Firm

Your child may ask you for things often and not only do you get overwhelmed as a parent, it overwhelms your child too. Learn to help them stay focused by saying “no” to things once in a while. You don’t really need to give the dog a bath, go to the library, wash the car and do homework all in one day.

3. Teach Them Freedom Without Living By a List of Extreme Schedule

As one of the only child characteristics, an only child can become dependent on lists and schedules. While these things are good for a child, when it is too extreme your child will start to feel stressed and pressured. They do need to be on-time and ready for school, but they can be more casual about other things like dance class, parties and play dates.

4. Have Fun and Laugh

Show them that laughter is good for them. An only child can be very serious and logical. You as a parent can show them how to lighten up and have fun!

5. Try Not to Interfere or Fix Things

If they don’t clean their room perfectly, make a mistake on homework or have a fight with a friend, keep a respectful distance. This means letting them clean their room their way, make mistakes and resolve their own issues.

6. Keep Them from Getting Lonely

Lonely children can be sad children or develop “imaginary friends.” To prevent this, get them involved in social groups like scouts, sports or classes where they can make friends.

7. Don’t Let Him Have a Big Ego

If your child begins to become critical of others, refuses to share and wants to be the “king of the hill”, nip it in the bud as soon as possible. This is where you need to discipline and explain to your child that it is important to think of others.

8. Help Your Child Learn to Handle Disappointment

An only child feels the need to be “perfect” sometimes. If they don’t get chosen for the school play, get a bad grade or their team loses a game, teach them to handle the disappointment and tell them they did their best.

9. Help Them Relax

You may have them in after school sports, chess club and extra homework or reading. While these are all good, too many things going on may exhaust them but they will keep up to please you. Help your child relax by spending a quiet day doing nothing once in a while.

10. Allow Them to Make Mistakes

You may spend a great amount of time with your child teaching them life skills, but once in a while take a step back. Let them make mistakes and figure out how to fix issues on their own. They have no siblings to learn from, so they need to master some skills on their own.

Video for more about only child characteristics: what are the traits and stigma only children face?