The number of children a family decides to have depends on a variety of factors such as economical situation, social status, culture, spiritual beliefs, area of residence, etc. For instance, whilst in some countries the common practice is to have one or maximum two kids, there are geographical areas where the average raises to four or five.
The Chinese government has enforced the “unique child” law in order to stop the alarming growth rate of this country’s population. Moreover, urban centers seem to be less motivating when it comes to the number of children to have.
Sometimes, the reasons are personal and can be traced to the parents’ background: having had a difficult relationship with their siblings, parents decide for an only child because do not want to reproduce this pattern. There are as many motivations as parents. However, most kids are "only children" by the force of circumstances, because of an illness causing a fertility issue or, even more often, because of the couple’s divorce.
When bringing the “only child” issue into conversation, it often brings along negative stereotypes, such as little emperors, spoiled monsters, selfish brats, etc. However, they are not always true and the only child’s personality traits actually depend on the environment these kids have lived in, on the education they received from their parents and on the genetic material they inherited from their family.
People tend to explain some kids’ selfishness by claiming that being an only child meant that they did not get used to sharing. This can be true and explained this way: adults feeling guilty for not having given their offspring any sibling or for having divorced the other parent are, thus, tempted to spoil too much in an effort to compensate. Yet, this phenomenon appears in families with more children, too. It is just a mere consequence of the parental choice made when dealing with a feeling of guilt.
Only children are also believed to be less able to make friends and deal with conflicts. This is just another dangerous generalisation resulting from the assumptions that only children are over-protected and that they spend more time in the company of adults than the ones that grow in large families, surrounded by siblings of different ages. However, with the always increasing percentage of working mothers and the hectic schedule contemporary parents have, only children often attend nursery schools or kindergartens, where they socialize with peers of their own age. When having siblings, one has to establish their own territory at home, but only children do just the same when they are in society.
In a nutshell, one cannot generalise and speak about the personality traits that only children have. Kids’ psychological and social development depends on a multitude of factors and it is up to the adults around them to make sure they have a sane environment to grow in.