The Wall Street Journal reports that the parents of several only children have created a once-a-week playgroup to socialize them. This is now or will be a trend, seeing as how some people only have one kid.
How will this turn out? Could we go ahead and look at China, which has all but cornered the world market on only children for the last three decades? No, apparently we could not.
But from my limited observation, no amount of playgroup conflict negotiation can compare to the endless sturm und drang of having a sibling around 24/7/365. But it might be enough to convince some folks that one kid is puh-lenty.
UPDATE: Hah, if there's barely a mention of China in the Journal, it's only because they didn't copy it over from the July 8 Time magazine cover story a few weeks ago, "The Only Child: Debunking The Myths".
That study was by Dr. Toni Falbo, of UT Austin, was a survey done in 1990. Turns out "the recognized expert on the one-child family and only children" hasn't published any new research on only children since 1993. [pdf]
But with a tagline like that, she still gets quoted all the time in order to "debunk" only child "stereotypes." Like in this 2007 essay from Brain, Child, for example:
In fact, Falbo looked specifically at the little emperor stereotype--the Chinese only child who's fat, bratty, badly behaved, and does not play well with others--and found it didn't stand up. Chinese parents of only children were more likely to "push," she found, though not "indulge."Hold that thought.
Yet despite the stereotype, the research has revealed no evidence that only kids have more negative traits than their peers with siblings--in China or anywhere else. "The only way only children are reliably different from others is they score slightly higher in academic achievement," explains Toni Falbo...Oh no, higher test scores? How will we cope?
Falbo's setup in Time holds another key to understanding the only child question:
No one has done more to disprove Hall's stereotype than Toni Falbo, a professor of educational psychology and sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. An only child herself and the mother of one, Falbo began investigating the only-child experience in the 1970s...[italics added]My point is not to even remotely question Falbo's extensive work, or to imply that it's somehow discredited by her own life experience.
But the media emphasis on only child stereotypes tells me that the real story, at least of these stories, is, what else? parental anxiety. In this case, it's parents anticipating or grappling with societal and family expectations--the flipside of stereotypes--about having more than one kid. It's the whole premise, in fact, of Jennifer Niesslein's piece in Brain, Child.
And it's the cautionary secondary theme of that Psychology Today story, which sounds the alarm bells about an apparently exploding mental health crisis among China's youth, where the one-child generation is "buckling under the constant pressure" of rigid, deterministic testing regimes and overwhelming parental expectations. That's the "push" Falbo's study found and dismissed, btw.
So having just one kid is fine, and the kid'll be fine. As long as you don't freak out and turn into a helicopter parent and burden your kid with every last one of your hopes and dreams, and drive him crazy with your relentless pressure for him to succeed--like, apparently, every parent in China.
A Dose of Sibling Rivalry [wsj via dt reader rolf]