Single children happier than those with siblings

The Institute for Social and Economic Research has concluded one of the largest surveys ever undertaken on family life in Britain.  The study, called Understanding Society, involved 40,000 households in the U.K. with 100,000 individuals, and some interesting conclusions have been drawn from the results.

The figures indicate that as a rule, only children are happier than children with siblings.

This goes somewhat against the grain of popular thinking that tends to feel sorry for an only child.  The child without brothers or sisters is often thought to be socially deprived, lonely and probably selfish, due to the fact that he or she never learned to share toys, food and parents’ attention.

However, the study suggests that only children are happier for that very reason:  they don’t have to compete for attention or possessions, and older or more aggressive siblings don’t bully them.

Bullying was the biggest complaint that was registered in the case of multiple children in a family, and the more children the more the complaints.  Over half of those surveyed said they had been punched, pushed or kicked on a regular basis, and many of them said their siblings had swiped toys, clothes, etc. and called them unflattering names.

Many of them resented having to share a bedroom, or compete for the parents’ approval.  One aspect of the research indicated that rivalry between siblings who just didn’t get along tended to frustrate their parents to the extent that they gave up trying to mediate, and bullying increased as a result.

The downside of siblings, however, seems to change to a more positive factor as children grow up.  As toddlers they look to the parents for most if not all of their comfort and security.  As they get older, siblings can provide a support network for each other in the face of outside or even parental attacks, whether verbal or physical.

Generally, kids that have learned to interact with other kids in the home find it easier to make friends and enjoy companionship when they start school.  As a footnote, it is interesting that 46% of all families in Britain include only one child.

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