Birth Order: Characteristics of an Only Child

Get to know common characteristics of an only child. What are they like? How can these characteristics and traits be positive? How can they be negative?

Parents and their only child

One of my favorite parenting books out there is The Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman.

People really have some innate characteristics based on their birth order, and understanding those tenancies can really help you to parent your children as individuals.

This post on the “only child” will basically be information I find interesting from the book, but with little commentary.

Characteristics of an Only Child

According to Leman, only children are much like oldest children. Here are some common characteristics:

  • Critical
  • Self-centered
  • Confident
  • Self-Assured
  • Articulate
  • On top of things
  • Perfectionists (Leman doesn’t think it is good to be a perfectionist)
  • Organized
  • Driver
  • List Maker
  • Logical
  • Scholarly

Ideal Self vs. Real Self

Leman talks about the idea of “ideal self vs. real self” in conjunction with only children. He says people will have a view of what they think others think of them and what they think they are like in actuality. He says these things rarely match up.

You might think people see you as organized but that you are actually unorganized. You might think people view you as a good housekeeper but you think you are always behind on housework.

These people know what they “should” be like, but also know they can never measure up. These people often need to take time to come to what is real because they often don’t give themselves enough credit.

Birth order characteristics of an only child pinnable image

Making Characteristics Positive

A great thing about Leman is that he lists characteristics, then points out how they can be positive or negative.

One example is confidence. Confident: This can mean you trust yourself and aren’t afraid to make decisions. But it can also mean that you are self-centered and afraid to try new things.


This book is quite interesting to me. I like to look at the characteristics charts at the end of each chapter and review them. As a parent, I can help guide my children to become the best version of the characteristics that will come naturally to them.

Are you/do you know any only children? How do these characteristics apply to you/them?