Lonely Only Children? Companionship Patterns and Well-being Among Adolescents With and Without Siblings

Jocelyn Wikle , Brigham Young University
Elizabeth Ackert, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin
Alexander Jensen, Brigham Young University

This study contributes to debates over only children versus children with siblings by comparing companionship patterns and well-being among adolescents with and without siblings in the home. The sibling socialization literature suggests children without sibling interactions may be at a disadvantage, spending more time alone and experiencing worse well-being. Conversely, theories positing a quantity-quality trade-off with increasing family size suggest parents may ensure that only children have higher quality social interactions than adolescents with siblings. Using the American Time Use Survey (N = 6,177), this study shows that only children spend more time alone than children with siblings, but also more one-on-one time with parents. Additionally, only children are less stressed when alone and have less negative feelings when with peers, but have less meaningful interactions with non-household adults than do children with siblings. Only children may be more adapted to spending time alone as well as with peers.

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 Presented in Session 122. Family Contexts and Child Well-being