What do Peter Parker in Spider-Man, Charlie Bucket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series have in common? They’re all only children.
Only children have a bad reputation as being more selfish and self-centered than kids whose more narcissistic urges are tempered by the presence of siblings.
A new study from researchers at the University of Leipzig in Germany and published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, however, shows that the stereotype of the self-centered only child might not be true.
For the study, researchers analyzed questionnaires from over 500 people with an average age of 46 and found that both those who were only children and those with siblings believed that only children were both narcissistic in two ways: grandiose and prone to rivalry.
They then analyzed data from a panel study of over 1800 people and found the scores of narcissistic traits for only children were not that different from people with siblings – even after controlling for possible socioeconomic factors.
“Some of the past research has reported no difference between only children and non-only children in terms of narcissism and some of the past research has reported such a difference,” says Michael Dufner of the University of Leipzeig. Due to the nature of their sampling and research methods, “we can now say with rather high confidence that only children are not substantially more narcissistic than people with siblings.”
Parents shouldn’t fear to have just one child, researchers said.
“When sociologists, economists, or policymakers discuss the downsides of low fertility rates, they should let go of the idea that growing up without siblings leads to increased narcissism,” write Dufner and colleagues.