7 traits you probably have now if you grew up as an 'only child', according to a psychologist (and #6 is pretty impressive)

Do you recognise any of these characteristics?

Smiling parents with their daughter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Birth order has been said to affect the type of adult you become. If you grew up an only child, you probably have these 7 traits according to a psychologist.  

Psychologists like to study the effects of birth order on the characteristics and personality it influences in adults. From the five traits said to be shared by those with youngest child syndrome, to the burden of eldest daughter syndrome, the number of siblings you have really does appear to shape your life.

Attention has also turned to only children, and while there's plenty of myths of only children to be debunked, psychologists do think there are common characteristics shared by those who grew up with no brothers or sisters. While you might think of a typical only child to be introverted, lonely or even spoilt, the seven traits they go on to share as adults are really positive. Here's what psychology says about each characteristic.

7 traits shared by only children

  1. Maturity. Only children have been found to develop a higher level of maturity than their peers, as they often spend more time around adults. Dinner table conversations tend to be more adult-focussed, and in cases when adults outnumber children the overall topic of interactions tend to be of a grown-up nature. This accelerates maturity in only children, helping them become well-rounded adults who are sensitive to the needs of both parents and friends.
  2. Independence. There's certainly nothing wrong with independence, and only children have this quality in abundance. They learn to take care of problems themselves and complete tasks independently at an earlier age without expecting additional help. Being accustomed to spending time in their own company also nurtures self-sufficiency.  
  3. High achievers. Studies consistently show the academic performance of only children to be significantly better than that of children with siblings. This is thought be due to parents having more time to spend with their only child, and more money to spend on educational resources. With more effort put into helping them achieve their goals and nobody to compare themselves too, only children chase and achieve lofty dreams.
  4. Recharge their batteries. With higher levels of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness in the face of boredom, only children are not only comfortable spending time alone but have the the boundaries in place to be protective of their alone time. Even if they're so used to spending time alone they find it difficult to be around people on occasions, only children know when to extricate themselves from situations and when to recharge and rest. 
  5. They make better friends. Push aside misconceptions about singletons being lonely children and adults. In the absence of siblings, only children become adept at seeking out good friends to act as brother and sister replacements. They are loyal to their chosen family and make excellent friends for the duration of their lives.
  6. Trustworthy. Being mature and independent tends to make only children reliable. They develop a good sense of commitment and integrity which means they can be counted upon in adulthood.
  7. Confidence. The confidence gained by only children translates into their working adult lives. Having always been listened to by parents not dividing their attention and developing a natural ability to take up space without needing to diminish themselves, only children have the confidence to understand they deserve to be seen and heard, standing them in good stead in all areas of life.

GoodtoKnow family editor Stephanie Lowe has an only child. Her son not having a sibling has been a source of worry, and she feels reassured that he is likely to develop positive traits because of his only child status. Steph says "My son is an only child and in his class of 30 there is only one other only child. It feels like everybody has siblings, and while we chose to stop at one for so many reasons (my mental health being one of them) I still worry we made the wrong call at least three times a week. 

"So, when I see a positive story on only children, I grab onto it with both hands and share it with my husband as a 'see, it's okay' validation that we sometimes both need. The fact that independence and better friends are listed as traits in adult-only-children is music to my ears as the thought of Ted struggling on his own in life with no siblings to lean on is one of my biggest fears." 

For more on siblings, if you're thinking of having a second baby there is an ideal age gap according to science. Research shows sister relationships are more positive than any other sibling bond, and kids who fight with their siblings fare better in life.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.