Only Children Are Not More Narcissistic Than Kids With Siblings, Study Finds

mbg Contributor By Sarah Fielding
mbg Contributor
Sarah Fielding is a freelance writer based in New York City covering a range of topics with a focus on mental health, sex, and relationships.
Only Children Are Not More Narcissistic Than Kids With Siblings, Study Finds

Image by Irina Ozhigova / Stocksy

Have you ever discovered someone is an only child and immediately assumed they'd act in a certain way?

It's a widely held theory that only children have different personality traits than those who grew up with siblings, dubbed "only child syndrome." We tend to associate only children with an increased tendency to be spoiled, self-centered, and a bit full of themselves. Like many stereotypes, this idea often pulls from select encounters and, for the longest time, was neither proved nor disproved on a large scale by research—until now.

In a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, German researchers believe they have finally found the answer to whether being an only child makes you a more narcissistic person. Spoiler alert: Don't believe every stereotype you hear.

To start off, they analyzed questionnaires given to more than 500 people to learn more about the stereotype only children face. The team found that those who grew up with siblings and only children themselves believe that only children are more narcissistic. To measure how much, if at all, the truth lined up to this bias, the team then analyzed personality data from over 1,800 people of all sibling configurations.

They discovered that the stereotype held no ground: Only children were not more likely to have narcissistic personality traits than people with siblings. In fact, the only children analyzed actually scored lower on narcissistic traits (like self-admiration and the tendency to view others as rivals) than people with siblings. 

This research is an important step toward breaking this long-perpetuated stereotype for the first time. "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," Michael Dufner, one of the study's researchers, said in a news release. However, due to their detailed sampling and research methods, the researchers report "with rather high confidence that only children are not substantially more narcissistic than people with siblings." 

Narcissism is obviously not a positive trait, and projecting the implications of it on someone simply for being an only child can be hurtful and unfairly presumptuous. Whether you're an only child or have siblings, next time you meet someone, don't assume from their family makeup anything about who they are and how they behave. Take the time to get to know them, and make the decision for yourself about what type of person they are. And if you're curious, here are a few life events that have been linked to narcissism.

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