Every Friday night, 8-year-old Maeve Morgan Phoa gets together with three other children for dinner, movies and general kid mayhem. The purpose isn't just fun. At the 'Friday Night Club' the parents created, Maeve, an only child, is forced to learn to take turns riding a coveted scooter, negotiate
who gets which super powers in make-believe games, and accept that squabbles are a natural part of life.
每个星期五的晚上，8岁的梅芙•摩根•潘(Maeve Morgan Phoa)都会和三个小朋友一起吃晚饭、看电影，一起打打闹闹。这么做可不光是为了好玩。在这个由父母们创立的"周五晚间俱乐部"里，梅芙这个独生女必须要学会和其他小朋友轮流玩心爱的踏板车、商量谁在过家家游戏中拥有哪种超能力，并接受争吵是生活中组成部分这个现实。
Creating this kind of close relationship
is one of many strategies parents of only children are employing in their attempts to raise happy, social kids. Others are purposefully spending less time with their child to better mimic what happens in a family with siblings. And some are policing gift-proffering grandparents to fight that old stereotype that an only child is a spoiled child.
There's a surge in interest in new ways to parent an only child. That's partly
because more people are having them. Then there's the onslaught of advice from neighborhood
message boards, online support groups and Mommy-bloggers that has fueled anxiety
about raising kids in general.
It's hard to gauge how many only children there are because an only child can easily become an eldest
child. But by looking at 50-year-old women, who are presumably
finished having children, 18.3% of them had a single child in 2006, up from 11.4% in 1990, according to numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics. The growth is being spurred by more later-in-life marriage and child-bearing. Financial concerns are also at play. As the cost of diapers, child-care and college degrees keep their steady march northward
, some parents are deciding it's just too expensive
to have that second kid.
统计独生子女的数量并不容易，因为他们可能很快就会有弟弟妹妹、成为家中的老大。不妨就看一下基本不会再生育的50岁女性的数据。根据美国国家卫生统计中心(National Center for Health Statistics)的统计，2006年50岁女性当中有18.3%的人只有一个孩子，而在1990年，这一比率仅为11.4%。造成这种增长的主要原因是现在人们结婚和生育的年龄都要比以前晚一些。其中也不乏经济方面的考虑。随着尿布钱、保育费和大学学费不断上涨口一些父母认为养育第二个孩子的花销实在是太大了。
Every type of childhood
, of course, has its challenges. And psychologist
s who work with only children and their parents say that growing up without siblings doesn't handicap
a kid any more than other family configurations. Still, parenting styles can affect
whether you end up with a happy and secure kid -- or an anxious
basket-case. So for those of us who, whether by choice or by circumstance, have an only child: What is the best way to raise one? And what are the pitfalls?
'Think in terms of what your only child is missing
,' says Carl E. Pickhardt, a child psychologist
in Austin, Texas, and the author of 'The Future of Your Only Child.' 'They're missing
the opportunity to get into the push and shove of sibling relationship
s, where you just kind of naturally learn there is going to be a give and take and resources have to be shared.'
得克萨斯州奥斯汀市(Austin)的儿童心理学家、《独生子女的未来》("The Future of Your Only Child")一书的作者卡尔•E.皮卡哈特(Carl E. Pickhardt)表示，"想一想你唯一的孩子缺少些什么。他们缺少了和兄弟姐妹过连推带挤的生活的机会。在那种情况下，他们可以很自然地学会付出和回报，学会与人分享资源。"
Creating that kind of opportunity is part of the goal of the five-year-old Friday Night Club, says Margaret Morgan, Maeve's mother. 'I'm hoping it offsets the kind of center-of-the-universe perspective
adores me and dotes on me -- that the kids who don't have siblings have,' says Ms. Morgan, 52, an artist in Los Angeles. The weekly
meetings have also helped her daughter learn to handle conflict
. 'They have their little spats and their disagreements and they do have to work it out because they have to deal with each other the next week,' Ms. Morgan says.
The kids seem blissfully unaware
of any aim beyond fun. 'You get to have sleepovers,' says Carina Kroff, 7, one of the only-child Friday Night Club members. 'It's just fun to be with friends.'
Parents say it's important to rein in the impulse
to be an only child's constantcompanion
. When Sarah McDonald's son, Toby, was 4, she started to feel that family life was centered too much on his desires and that the undivided attention was resulting in tantrums. So Ms. McDonald, 45, a stay-at-home mother in South Riding, Va., instituted this plan: Every afternoon for two hours, Toby is expected to knock on a neighbor's door and find friends to play with or entertain
himself in his room.
家长们说，克制自己、不让自己形影不离陪在孩子左右至关重要。现年45岁的莎拉•麦克唐纳(Sarah McDonald) 是弗吉尼亚州南赖丁市(South Riding)的一位全职妈妈，在儿子托比(Toby) 4岁的时候，她开始觉得家庭生活过于以托比的愿望为中心，全副心力放在孩子身上还导致她经常情绪不好。于是，她实施了以下计划：每天下午拿出两个小时，让托比去找邻居家的小朋友一起玩，或者让他一个人在自己的房间玩。
Ms. McDonald said the change -- which her son, now 6, resisted at first -- is a good counterweight to all the hours he spends around adults.
Experts say giving only kids space is also important to avoid an under-the-microscope type scrutiny. 'Growing children should really have the opportunity to contain
their thoughts and not always have someone . . . picking their ideas apart,' says Lawrence Balter, a child psychologist
and professor emeritus at New York University.
专家认为，给独生子女一些空间也很重要。这样可以避免对他们进行"显微镜下的"监护。儿童心理学家、纽约大学(New York University)名誉教授劳伦斯•巴尔特(Lawrence Balter)表示，"儿童在成长过程中的确应该有机会克制自己的想法，而不总是由别人......来否定他们的想法。"
Having a single child is still often considered a radical
choice, though it is not always a choice. Neighbors, total strangers and many a mother-in-law may continue to push procreation, saying
that, without a sibling, a child will be lonely
, or a bit of a misfit.
Research, however, shows that generally isn't the case. In a meta-analysis covering 115 studies of only children conducted from the 1920s to the 1980s, Toni Falbo, a professor of educationalpsychology
at the University of Texas at Austin, and her co-author, found that only children were generally as well-adjusted, intelligent
and sociable as those with siblings. Dr. Falbo, who has research
ed only children since the early 1970s, also conducted a study of schoolchildren in China that challenged the idea that the country's one-child policy
was producing a generation
of narcissistic 'little emperors.'
然而，研究表明，事实通常并非如此。在对二十世纪20年代至80年代的115项独生子女研究进行的统合分析中，得克萨斯大学奥斯汀分校(University of Texas at Austin)教育心理学教授托妮•凡尔布(Toni Falbo)和她的论文合着者发现，独生子女总体上和有兄弟姐妹的孩子一样适应能力强、聪明伶俐、多才多艺，而且善于交际。凡尔布博士从70年代早期就开始研究独生子女问题，而且还对中国的在校生进行过一项研究。她并不认为中国的独生子女政策造就了一代自我迷恋的"小皇帝"。
has found that there are benefits to being an only child: They tend to have stronger vocabularies, do better in school and are closer to their parents, says Dr. Falbo. 'Only children get all their parents have to give without them having to divvy it up among the various siblings,' she explains.
It can be easy to spoil an only child. When there's more than one child, each kid is naturally going to have fewer dolls, video games and Juicy Couture hoodies. But even when parents of only children are diligent
in limiting treats, they may have to police family members. Four-year-old Andrew Jacobsen isn't just an only child, he's an only grandchild as well. Christmas 'was just unreal,' says his mother, Kendra Jacobsen, a 35-year-old systems engineer in Verona, Wis. 'We were literallyopening
presents non-stop all day long.' So last Christmas, Ms. Jacobsen and her husband made an attempt to shrink
the pile under the tree. They didn't buy Andrew any gifts themselves and instituted an 'approval process' for toys given by relatives. (Ms. Jacobsen says the new policy
hasn't been totally
successful: 'My mom still brings extra stuff.')
独生子女很容易被溺爱。如果家里有超过一个孩子，每个孩子得到的娃娃、游戏机和Juicy Couture连帽衫的数量自然就会少一些。但是，即便父母能够努力去减少对独生子女的溺爱，也是不够的，还需要让家庭成员一起来努力。4岁的安德鲁•雅各布森(Andrew Jacobsen)不仅是家里的独生子，而且还是唯一的孙子。他的妈妈、35岁的肯德拉•雅各布森(Kendra Jacobsen)是威斯康星州维罗纳市(Verona)的一名系统工程师，她说，之前有一个圣诞节
With fewer competing voices and no sibling rivalry
to complicate matters, it can be easier to give an only child a vote in family decisions. For years, Rob Grindstaff, his wife, Cynthia, and their now 17-year-old daughter, Megan, took turns choosing where they would take their annual
. 'Making her a part of these decisions has helped her mature
a little bit faster than other kids,' says Mr. Grindstaff, 46, a digital publishing executive
in Franklin, Tenn., who is an only child himself.
But Mr. Grindstaff says giving Megan such a powerful role in family matters has brought difficulties, too. When the family moved from Oklahoma City to Ann Arbor, Mich., when Megan was 10, 'she didn't understand that she didn't have an equal say in whether we were moving to Michigan or not.' The outspokenness the Grindstaffs have encouraged in their daughter has also caused tension
with teachers and coaches. He and his wife have had to advise
Megan that 'not everyone
is as open to suggestions as her mother and me,' he says.
Psychologists say that the normalconflict
s of adolescence can be a particularly trying
for small families. Since parents and their only child are often very close, limits-testing and rebelling can come as more of a shock.
Only children also tend to be self-confident, making them 'very worthy
adversaries' during disputes, Dr. Pickhardt says.
But if there's one message for parents of only children, it is this: Relax, the kids are going to turn out fine. 'Being an only child is a neat way to grow up,' Dr. Pickhardt says.
Adult only children note their comfort with being alone and the creativity and self-esteem that can foster
. 'You learn to trust your instincts,' says Stephanie Spencer Lee, a 43-year-old mother of two in Closter, N.J., who says she spent many hours reading
and playing make-believe games in her backyard when she was young. 'I have a pretty strong sense of what my gut is and who I think I am.'
长大成人的独生子女表示，他们适应独处、拥有创造力和自尊心。现年43岁的斯蒂芬妮•斯宾塞•李(Stephanie Spencer Lee)是新泽西州克罗斯特市(Closter)一位拥有两个孩子的母亲，她表示，"你会学着相信自己的本能。"她说，自己小的时候，经常独自在自家后院读书或者玩过家家游戏，"我非常了解自己的秉性以及自己是一个什么样的人。"