Being an Only Child: 16 Possible Disadvantages & Drawbacks

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

family spending time together at home
Shutterstock.com

Being an only child might seem like a dream for those who grew up with siblings, but those who are an only child know that there are some drawbacks to the situation. Most people think that the only challenge an only child has is that of loneliness, but, sometimes, it’s more than that. I am not one to focus on the negative aspects of life, but one thing I can’t let slide under the radar is some of the difficulties of not having any siblings (not to sound overdramatic or anything). I’m about to share some of my personal reasons why being an only child sometimes can be tough. 

16 disadvantages and drawbacks to being an only child:

1. Risk of parents trying to live vicariously through the child. 

Parents that have an only child might tend to get overly involved in the child’s life. They may try to encourage the child to take up interests and activities that interest them as a way of vicariously doing all the things they didn’t do as kids.

2. Risk of over-dependence on the parents. 

As an only child, one really on has one resource of information and care – the parents. If a child has siblings, they can learn to be more independent by watching brothers and sisters progress through life. An only child might lack the confidence to do things alone because he/she has not been witness to someone of a similar age doing the same thing (which is the case with children who have older siblings).

3. Vacations are basically time spent with the parents.

Most families with kids go away on vacation and let the children spend time together. Only children don’t get this opportunity as there are no other children in the family. This means that an only child might have a less exhilarating family vacation than a child with many siblings does.

4. No one older to learn from or get advice from.

When a child doesn’t have any siblings, there’s no one older (or of similar age) that can give life advice, other than the parents. Kids with older siblings can truly benefit from the guidance of their older siblings.

5. Pressure on the child to be perfect.

Parents often, without even trying, put pressure on their kids to be “perfect”. When a family consists of a number of kids, the pressure is spread among them, allowing each child to feel some sort of relief from it. An only child might feel the need to be the perfect child because there are no other options.

6. Lack of valuable sibling bonding. 

There’s something quite special about sibling bonding. It is a state of knowing that you have people (of your same blood) on your side and in your team. Only children might not get to feel this special bond.

7. Boredom at home or during family time. 

Family time in a home where there is a handful of kids is probably a lot more entertaining than family time in a home where there is just one child. An only child might get bored with family time or simply be bored spending time at home as there is no one else of a similar age to talk to and have fun with.

8. Sole responsibility for caring for the parents in their old age.

Parents get old – it’s a fact of life. Children usually take care of their parents when they get older. Unfortunately, an only child has to handle this task all alone.

9. There’s a risk of becoming selfish (not having to share).

This is me
Shutterstock.com

Selfishness is something that a large number of people suffer. Being an only child means that there isn’t much opportunity to share things. Not having to share anything for so many years growing up might influence some people into becoming too self-absorbed.

10. No one to moan to about the parents. 

An only child has no one to rant and moan to when the parents are being controlling or unfair. Children with siblings can at least get their parent-based frustrations out and quelled with their brothers and sisters.

11. Risk of feeling too entitled. 

Although this is not common, it’s still a possible downside. Only children don’t have to concern themselves with another child’s (who lives under the same roof) needs, wants, and feelings. This can cause an only child to develop a somewhat entitled approach to life. For some, this can be off-putting, and it can cause problems in social and romantic relationships in life.

12. Loneliness.

Let’s talk about loneliness. It’s the very first drawback that springs to everyone’s mind when they are told to think about what could be bad about being an only child. Although studies suggest that being an only child doesn’t necessarily make you lonely, it’s indeed a possible outcome. For instance, when an only child gets home from school, there is no one to play with, and no one of a similar age to relate to.

13. No one to look out for the child at school and in social settings. 

Children with siblings have the benefit of having people out there, looking out for them. At school, siblings care for each other when others bully them or treat them unfairly. An only child might feel like she/he is entering all of life’s situations and scenarios solo.

14. Not expose to sibling rivalry. 

If a child has siblings, he/she will be exposed to a certain amount of sibling rivalry. This can prepare a child for the type of competitiveness that they may encounter on the “outside” (outside of the family unit).

15. Limited access to friendship circles. 

An only child will only have access to his/her immediate circle of friends – usually acquired at school. Children who have siblings have the benefit of being introduced to children of varying ages through their siblings. This doesn’t only extend their network of friends and acquaintances, but also teaches a child how to communicate and socialize with peers of different age groups.

girl sitting on couch at home
Shutterstock.com

16. Not having a potential best friend for life. 

Who can say that they truly have a best friend forever? Is it even possible? In a way, it is. Brothers and sisters have the potential to be one of them. Sometimes the bond is so strong that it doesn’t matter if they don’t see each other every day, or share their deepest and most intimate issues. When problems arise, or a person needs someone to be there for them, the siblings will be there – no matter what.

Last word

You might be thinking, “wow, it sounds quite hard being an only child”! The reality is that being an only child is, for the most part, not bad at all; actually, I’m an only child who, in my humble opinion, is doing pretty well in life. But from what you read above, you have a pretty clear picture of the possible drawbacks of being the only kid at home.

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.