Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

No Siblings? Your Social Skills Are Just Fine

Study Shows Teens Without Siblings Have Plenty of Friends
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Aug. 17, 2010 -- Despite concerns that an "only" child may be spoiled by his or her parents, new research suggests that teenagers without siblings don't seem to be disadvantaged in the development of social skills.

Researchers at Ohio State University, who examined interview data on more than 13,000 middle and high school kids, say they found that those without siblings were chosen as friends by their classmates as often as those with brothers and sisters.

"I don't think anyone has to be concerned that if you don't have siblings, you won't learn the social skills you need to get along with other students in high school," Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, PhD, co-researcher of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State's Marion campus, says in a news release.

She says concerns that a lack of siblings could crimp the ability of young people to make friends have increased in recent years but appear to be unfounded.

Bobbitt-Zeher and Douglas Downey, PhD, a sociology professor at Ohio State's Columbus campus, examined data from the National Study of Adolescent Health, which included information from interviews with 13,466 adolescents in seventh through 12th grades at more than 100 schools during the 1994-1995 academic year.

Each youngster was given a roster of all students in his or her school, and asked to identify up to five male and five female friends.

Students in the study were nominated as a friend by an average of five other students. And no important differences were found in "friend" nominations of youths with or without siblings.

Researchers say their findings showed that:

  • The number of siblings a teen had didn't matter when it came to being identified as a friend.
  • Neither did it matter whether those siblings were brothers, sisters, or some combination, or if they were step-siblings or adopted siblings.

"In every combination we tested, siblings had no impact on how popular a student was among peers," Bobbitt-Zeher says.

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
boy on father's shoulder
Child with red rash on cheeks
girl thinking

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply