09/21/2011 11:13 am ET | Updated Nov 21, 2011

Only Planet: Why One Child Is Often Enough

We're passing one of those nostalgia-infused candy shops when I spot him. At seven, he's about the same age and size as my 4-foot-3-inch hulk of a son. And -- rubbernecking now -- I realize this able-bodied child is being helped out of a stroller. A stroller? My son refused that ride by three-and-a-half. If I tell you this long-legged prince is an only child, you might think "Aha!" But so is my son. Can we really form any conclusions here?

For about 30 years, social psychologist Susan Newman has been smashing down the stereotypes people lob at only children. They're spoiled, lonely, bossy -- they even talk funny, apparently. In her new book, The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide, Newman reviews more than a century's worth of research on only children. Speaking by phone from her New Jersey home, Newman says many people don't realize how consistent the findings are: "We've been brainwashed to believe that every child needs a sibling. And the research shows that that's just not true. Only children turn out just as well, or develop just as well, as other children."