New research finds no evidence for the claim that only children are more narcissistic than children with siblings.
German social and personality psychologists Drs. Michael Dufner (University of Leipzig), Mitja D. Back (University of Münster), Franz F. Oehme (University of Leipzig), and Stefan C. Schmukle (University of Leipzig) recently published their findings in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
The researchers began their study by asking people if they believed people who have no siblings are more narcissistic than people with siblings.
Then, Dufner and colleagues focused on two core aspects of narcissism: people feeling grandiose about themselves more and people being more rivalrous.
Researchers then analyzed data from a large panel study of over 1,800 people, and found the scores of narcissistic traits for only children were not that different from people with siblings. Even controlling for possible socioeconomic factors, these results held true.
“Some of the past research has reported no difference between only children and non-only children in terms of narcissism and some of the past research has reported such a difference,” said Dufner.
Due to the nature of their sampling and research methods, “we can now say with rather high confidence that only children are not substantially more narcissistic than people with siblings.”
Narcissism is considered a socially maladaptive personality trait, so lumping only children as being narcissistic can put them at a disadvantage from their peers, the researchers noted.
“When sociologists, economists, or policy makers discuss the downsides of low fertility rates, they should let go of the idea that growing up without siblings leads to increased narcissism,” Dufner and colleagues wrote.
“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 said.