Review: The Case for the Only Child by Susan Newman

21 Jun

The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential GuideThis really wasn’t the book I was hoping for. It may well be the book someone else needs.

Book description via

What’s really wrong with having one child? Is one enough for you? For your partner? What constitutes a complete, happy family? Will your only child be lonely, spoiled, bossy, selfish? Read this book and find out.

Despite the personal distress and pressure to have a second baby, the number of women having an only child has more than doubled in the last two decades. What most people don’t realize is that one-child families outnumber families with two children and have for more than two decades. In major metropolitan areas like New York, 30 percent of families have a singleton. Throughout the country people are following suit. And it’s no wonder why:

  • The worrisome biological clock (secondary infertility; older mothers)
  • Downtrodden job markets
  • How mothers working affects everyone in the family
  • Finances and housing and costs of education

These are only the few things that parents today (and parents to be) contend with when deciding to start a family and determining whether or not to stop after one. The time is right for a book that addresses the emerging type of nuclear family, one that consists of a solo child.

I have an only child. I’ve long since accepted this as fine for our family. I never worried about most of the things the author gives as concerns. Most of the reasons she discusses for having an only child weren’t really part of out decision making either, although I have thought of some as advantages after the fact.

Beyond that, my biggest disappointment is that Susan Newman only refers to the research fleetingly, with much more space being taken up by anecdotes from people she’s interviewed and commenters on her blog. I appreciated these, but really was looking for a more scholarly work– one that described the studies and spent a paragraph (rather than a single sentence) on the results.

But it wasn’t at all a bad book, just not the one I was looking for. If you are debating whether to have a second child, whether for personal, professional or logistical reasons, this book might help you make up your mind. If circumstances have determined you will only have one child, even if that wasn’t your choice, this may put your mind at ease. If you have an only child, and people are telling you your child will be spoiled, lonely, and generally unhappy, this book will address your concerns.

For me?  I didn’t take into account my career or family finances in making the choice– I left a successful career to become a stay at home mom to my one, and I know we would have made another child work financially. I always saw my daughter’s imaginary friends as signs of an active imagination, not loneliness to be cured by a sibling.  Instead of seeing her as spoiled, I saw her as happy to share since resources were plentiful.  My daughter decided early on she didn’t want to have siblings, just to borrow them sometimes, and even now she delights in the company of older and younger children.

For you?  I wish you happiness, whatever your family looks like.  Consider this book as a potential resource in getting to that point.

I read The Case for the Only Child for a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you to TLC and to the Publisher for the opportunity to review this book.  For more by/about the author, visit her website at and her Singletons blog for Psychology Today.

For other opinions on the book, check out the other tour stops:


Posted by on June 21, 2011 in books, reviews


Tags: , , , ,

7 responses to “Review: The Case for the Only Child by Susan Newman

  1. Susanna Daniel

    June 21, 2011 at 6:13 am

    I also have an only, and have been thinking about picking up this book. I like how you say that you’ve accepted it — I think that whether or not one revels in the advantages afforded by a small family, there’s still a good deal of acceptance that has to go into the decision, if that makes sense. Thanks for your review (and also for the one you wrote about my book, Stiltsville!).

  2. Sniffly Kitty

    June 21, 2011 at 9:26 am

    It’s too bad that it didn’t focus more on research since I feel like that would be more informative although people in general seem to respond better to anecdotes because it may seem less abstract

  3. Literary Feline

    June 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Thank you for your great review! I only recently heard about this book and am really curious about it. I recently had a baby and my husband and I went into it knowing we would likely only have the one. I am getting a lot of pressure about our decision. It is funny how everyone wants to have a say … Anyway, I wish the book had gone into more detail about the research as I am really interested in that aspect. Still it sounds worth reading just the same.

  4. Heather J. @ TLC

    June 21, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I too have one child but didn’t intend it that way. I do see a lot of advantages to it after the fact though. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed this one even if it wasn’t what you were expecting it to be. Thanks for being on the tour Laura!

  5. Patricias Wisdom

    June 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    I appreciated your review because it was from another perspective – I did find more of the research the author referred to online through some searches and her highlights made them easy to spot. As the Mother of 3 and Grandparent to zero, I appreciated this book because it gave me a genuine overview of what new parents are facing and it assisted me in removing some of the pressure being put upon my own children by in-laws.

    Having a handicapped child who is stunningly beautiful and attracts lots of admirers until they find out cleft palates are genetic and expensive particularly in the USA (as they are not covered by insurance) and seeing her rejected because of this imperfection is heartbreaking – and yet I know those folks would not have made good partners in the long run.

    The book is easy to read, because I think it is trying to reach those young folks who are not planning or thinking…just assuming, and maybe it will reach some of those readers – all of my children immediately went to check out Newman’s blog site.

    Very nice review and as I read others words I am learning so much. Thank you


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