Only Children: Does Only Mean Lonely?

On ABC radio on Saturday a piece was run on only children. It led me to wonder why there is so much focus on only children, as though it’s some disease or at the very least a serious disadvantage in life.

The term itself has negative connotations. I ‘only’ got one piece of pizza. If ‘only’ I had bought that house before the housing market boomed. The ‘only’ time I get to go to the movies is when the kids are with Mum.

Then there’s the aspect of the term ‘only’ that is synonymous with the word ‘lonely.’ Besides the rhyming of the two, that idea of only implies a sense of missing out and of being alone.


Then the third aspect of the term ‘only’ is where we downplay our own being. Haven’t many of us, when we enter a room unannounced said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only me.’ My daughter even has a book that’s entitled ‘It’s only me.’ In the story various animals make a noise but respond with the line, ‘It’s only me.’

Yes, ‘only’ is the obvious description because it stems from the word one. But far more than this, it is associated with loneliness, isolation, insecurity, boredom, and exclusion.

What are your perceptions? Do you think of only children as lonely? Or indeed did you feel lonely as an only child? Is there a reason why the word is used and why it’s such a common topic of discussion?

In both the wider media and a community sense I have heard very little of the positive aspects of ‘only children.’ Are there any out there?

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