Study: Only Children Aren’t Any More Narcissistic Than Those With Siblings


Oct 28, 2019


Image Credit - Modern Family

“Siblings know how to share better,” or “Only children are spoiled,” are common stereotypes that float about the bigger question of how many children one should have. However, research suggests otherwise. According to a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, there’s no evidence for the claim that only children are more narcissistic — specifically with respect to feeling more grandiose about themselves and being more rivalrous towards other people.

Narcissism is considered a socially maladaptive personality trait; it can also manifest as a diagnosable mental illness, which is known as narcissistic personality disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – V, narcissism is identified by “a pattern of need for admiration and lack of empathy for others.”

“We can now say with rather high confidence that only children are not substantially more narcissistic than people with siblings,” said study co-author Dr. Michael Dufner, from the University of Leipzig, in a statement, using the nature of the study’s sampling and research methods as backing.

Related on The Swaddle:

Siblings Can Mitigate the Negative Effects of Parents’ Fighting

In order to establish the existence of the stereotype, the researchers analyzed a questionnaire of more than 500 people, from which they found that people with and without siblings both held the view that only children display more grandiose (showy) and rivalrous (competitive) behaviors.

Then, the researchers analyzed a large panel study of around 2,000 people, including 233 people without siblings and 1,577 children with at least one sibling. The researchers found that people with no siblings did not score any higher on narcissistic traits than children with siblings. This research also controlled for factors like age, sex, socioeconomic status, place of residence during childhood, presence and/or absence of both parents during childhood, and migration background.

“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 the authors of the study.

“There might, of course, be economic or societal costs associated with low birth rates, but increasing narcissism in the upcoming generation does not seem to be a factor that is relevant to the discussion,” Dufner added.


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields *.

The latest in health, gender & culture in India -- and why it matters. Delivered to your inbox weekly.