Monday, October 4, 2010

Do Only Children Have Worse Social Skills?

Does being an only child increase the risk of bad teenage social skills? Not according to a new study out of the University of Ohio. When researchers surveyed over 13,000 adolescents and teenagers without siblings, they found no lack of social skills among only children – or a lack of friends.

Do Teens without Siblings Have More Problems Making Friends?

Growing up without siblings may give a child less opportunity to interact with other kids their own age, but it doesn’t seem to hurt their social skills, at least not during the teenage years. To look at this issue, researchers asked more than 13,000 kids in grades seven through twelve to pick five male and female friends out of a complete list of students. By counting the number of times a student was picked, they were able to gauge how popular he or she was.

When they compared kids without siblings to ones who had brothers or sisters, they found no significant difference in the number of times other kids choose them to be their friend. It also didn’t matter how many or how few siblings a kid had. The researchers took into account and controlled for other factors that may have affected the results such as the age of the parents, whether both parents lived at home, race, and socioeconomic status.

Kids without Siblings May Have Less Developed Social Skills Early in Life

If kids without siblings have fewer social skills, they seem to develop them by the time they reach middle school. In another study, researchers asked teachers to rate the social skills of students in their classrooms. They found, according to teacher reports, children of kindergarten age had worse social skills than their classmates with at least one brother or sister – but it’s more difficult to draw conclusions from this study since it’s based solely on subjective ratings by teachers.

Social Skills and Being an Only Child

Being an only child could make it more difficult for a child to develop social skills during the early years, but there’s little difference in only children and kids with siblings by the time they reach adolescence. Teen social skills don’t seem to be affected by whether or not a child has brothers and sisters. This should be reassuring news for parents who only want one child.

References: “Growing Up Without Sibs Doesn’t Hurt Social Skills”.

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