‘One and Only’ speaks to single-child parents7/31/2013
Courtesy of Beaverdale Books
Review by Harriet Leitch
Simon and Schuster
June 11, 2013
Parents of “one and only” children will find “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One” enlightening and reassuring in many respects. The author, Lauren Sandler, is a one and only, and, in turn, has a one and only child of her own. Often the parents of an only child will hear the common so-called “facts” from friends and family: The child will be spoiled, selfish, socially awkward, etc. These same parents often know that these “facts” do not describe their child.
The author traces these falsely held beliefs to a psychologist in the late 1800s who concluded: “Being an only child is a disease in itself.” The parenting literature published after this pronouncement (also based on opinion rather than research) had similar dire warnings of raising a singleton. A researcher named Fenten finally tested these hypotheses, and his results contradicted most if not all of the original theory, i.e. he found only-children to be more generous, more sociable, more truthful, with greater initiative, leadership abilities and self-assuredness than children raised with siblings. But this study and others like it failed to gain traction in the public at large.
Sandler also discusses the one-child mandate in China that was instituted a generation ago. There are wisps of the same expectations of an only child, who is characterized in China as “the Little Emperor.” The one-and-only policy has become a part of China’s culture.
This book provides citations of research that gives “one and only” parents reassurance that, while they have denied their child the benefits of siblings, the child has had the benefit of undiluted family resources and attention. CV
Harriet Leitch is an unrepentant history major who enjoys being with her grandchildren, gardening, training dogs, playing flute and returning to her love of books, especially biographies, history and the occasional mystery/detective story.