Spoiled Rotten (Or Not): Do Siblings Make A Difference?


While the Pew Forum is asking if marriage is still relevant at home, an equally dim future for the institution is being projected from abroad, where, in China, “lightening divorces” are in vogue.

Today one in every five Chinese marriages ends in divorce, according to NPR. Many Chinese couples marry quickly – and divorce even more quickly. One 24-year-old related her own story, which involved marrying a lad she knew for three weeks; their marriage lasted six months. Another story involved a couple who divorced after a week.

What’s most fascinating isn’t really the phenomena itself, but what the story and those interviewed for it suggest as its underlying cause: single-child syndrome. China’s one-child policy has created a generation of single children unaccustomed to sharing, compromise or selflessness.

NPR lays out the stats: “Divorces last year were up 8.8 percent compared with 2008. Statistics from one Beijing district court last year showed the divorce rate among the under-30s had doubled annually over the past five years, with 97 percent of the couples being only children.”

One Chinese divorcee says the next time she marries she’ll look for a husband with siblings.

Barbie at peril

Certainly, single kids in America haven’t grown up in a single-child culture like those in China, but — at least in my experience — they generally do relate differently to others, although there are scores of books and blogs out there for those who want to avoid an only child who acts the part. And for those of us who may have grown up with siblings, but have now lived solo for a while, there’s still a risk of developing a similar me-centered worldview.

I grew up with three younger siblings, and, at the very least, they taught me that nothing nice I own will stay that way, from a favorite Barbie whose face was met by a disposable razor, to a sweater my sister washed and rendered 14 sizes too small.

On the flip side, I learned that personal joy and personal pain were something to share with the family, and I have never, ever felt alone. I expect my experience to shape my own family someday.

Today my sister is my best friend. Who knew that after 14 years of perpetually complaining about sharing a bedroom when we lived at home I’d love to be her roommate again?

I can’t imagine not having siblings, and I imagine it’s equally hard for only children to imagine having them. How does that affect the dynamic of planning a family for couples from each side of the coin?

I put it to you: CatholicMatchers, do you account for siblings when you’re looking for a mate? If you grew up with siblings, how does it affect the way you would manage conflict, share joys, or handle change with a spouse?

Same question for you, only children.



  1. Michele-642915 December 9, 2010 Reply

    i’m scared to be the first to reply. i don’t know about statistics accuracy or factual analysis. what about the books the Five Chinese Brothers…that’s not only 1 but 5. (at any rate, let’s pray for China). but I think of St. Therese of Lisieux…she still had to outgrow acting spoiled from being the youngest child, and then see how she made so much progress in her victories over her nature, and developing her little way of spiritual childhood. Or some bible examples of couples with only children are because they were blessed later in life. Even the Blessed Virgin Mary was an only child, but she had no room in her life to be spoiled because she was full of grace. Jesus was an only child too, but Mary did not spoil him. Only children have to look to cousins, and brothers and sisters in Christ – to be like brothers and sisters. It’s not up to us how many children our parents had, we can’t go back in time and get to be raised how we think we’d like to have been raised…God had a plan suitable for the life he prepared for us and we just have to grow up no matter how we were raised.

    CCC 2373 “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity.”

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