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The Intellectual Achievement of Only Children

  • Denise F. Polit (a1) and Toni Falbo (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 July 2008

A quantitative review of the literature on the intellectual achievement of only children indicated that only children were never at a disadvantage in relation to any comparison group; nor were they significantly different from first-born children or children from two-child families. Moreover, only children were at a significant advantage in comparison with later-born children and those from large families. The consistency of these findings across subgroups suggests that interpersonal mechanisms are largely responsible. The strong only-child advantage on tests of verbal ability, together with the overall pattern of findings, implicates parent–child interactions as responsible for the family size and birth order variations in intellectual achievement.

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H. M. Breland (1974) Birth order, family configuration, and verbal achievement. Child Dev. 45, 1011.

J. Cohen (1977) Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. Academic Press, New York.

J. Dunn & C. Kendrick (1980) The arrival of a sibling: changes in patterns of interaction between mother and first-born child. J. Child Psychol. Psychiat. allied Discipl. 21, 119.

T. Falbo & C. R. Cooper (1980) Young children's time and intellectual ability. J. genet. Psychol. 137, 299.

T. Falbo & D. F. Polit (1986) A quantitative review of the only-child literatures: research evidence and theory development. Psychol. Bull. 100, 176.

E. B. Page & G. M. Grandon (1979) Family configuration and mental ability: two theories contrasted with U.S. data. Am. educ. res. J. 16, 257.

M. Shinn (1978) Father absence and children's cognitive development. Psychol. Bull. 85, 295.

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Journal of Biosocial Science
  • ISSN: 0021-9320
  • EISSN: 1469-7599
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-biosocial-science
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