Is it wrong or selfish to have an only child?

Posted in Family.

When it comes to determining family size, there are lots of variables that come into play. Some of those are in parents’ hands, while others – such as fertility challenges – are out of their control.

Is it selfish?

A post on parenting forum Mumsnet has got mums and dads talking about the number of children they have, after a forum user wondered if having just one child is a good idea.

“Is having an only child selfish?” the poster asked other parents. “In your honest opinion is it wrong/selfish to have an only child and why?”

This question is fraught from the get-go, as it simply doesn’t factor in the individual circumstances of parents. It also invites judgement, which we’re not huge fans of either. 

Thankfully, the good folk of Mumsnet knew what was what (as usual!) Many were quick to respond and point out that this question was really pretty insensitive. And most people answered “NO!” to this question.

“What an ignorant view that would be. Many people, for many reasons, don’t get a choice,” one person wrote.

Feeling pressured

The mum who shared the original question, posted a reply, adding a little more detail. She noted that she herself was a parent of one, and that she felt pressured to try for more by others.

“We still constantly get comments about when we will give her a sibling,” she explained. “I do wonder why society/media seem to make out that only children are lacking something, or grow up to be selfish and lonely.”

It’s true that people often default to questions like, “When are you having another?” but is that just lazy small talk or is there really a view that only children are less social?

People were divided.

“It is possible to grow up happy and cared for as an only child (I was) just as it is possible to be an unhappy and neglected child of a larger family (my husband was),” one mum wrote.

“The two most selfish people I know have siblings. The idea that only children must be selfish is a ridiculous generalisation,” someone else chimed in.

“I don’t think that there is necessarily a ‘unique’ or actually any bond between siblings – nor can siblings necessarily count on each other when grown up,” another commenter pointed out.

Only child with mum

Every child is different

Some people who grew up as only children said they wished they’d had a sibling, but perhaps there IS some idealising of having siblings in that?

Many thought it made sense to have fewer children, and that it was actually very unselfish to stop at one.

“Every additional child we have (certainly in richer high-consuming countries) puts additional strain on our climate and natural resources, so I’d say that having fewer children is the unselfish option.”

Is it wrong or selfish to have an only child? In our opinion? Of course not!


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