Issue 2: Making Conversation

We are the same, we are different.

Meng Xu and Jing Pu discuss their family relationships. We explored the different ways in which single-child families and multi-child families handle the same thing and how this affects personality.

Family relationships can differ significantly between families with one child and families with multiple children due to differences in family dynamics and structures. So we used interviews to explore the differences and similarities between us growing up.

Since only children have no siblings, they do not experience the dynamics, competition, or companionship that come with siblings. In contrast, siblings in families with many children often develop unique relationships with each other. These relationships can include connection, conflict, competition, and shared experiences. Sibling relationships can range from very close and supportive to distant or competitive. So we used the specific example of dividing food to illustrate that the only child can enjoy it alone, and even the food cannot be eaten, resulting in waste. Because birth order is not a factor in a one-child family, the role of the child as the oldest, middle, or youngest does not play any role. However, in families with many children, birth order can significantly affect the child’s personality and function in the family. The oldest child may take on more responsibility, the middle child may ask for help or be the mediator, and the youngest may be doted on or protective. Therefore, when encountering such a situation, characters such as “sister” and “brother” will have a higher status in the family, have a more significant say, and will also be the ones who have the most challenging work.

In terms of character development, only children often develop a strong sense of independence and self-reliance. They must learn to entertain themselves and solve problems independently because they don’t have brothers and sisters who can always accompany or help. While children in families with many children may develop independence, they also learn to rely on and cooperate with siblings. They develop interdependence and the need to work together to solve problems or achieve common goals.

Socially, only children may have more opportunities to interact with adults, from which they can learn communication skills. However, they may need more opportunities to practice social skills with peers in their home environment.

Siblings in families with multiple children provide built-in playmates and social interaction. They learn valuable social skills such as sharing, cooperation, negotiation, and conflict resolution from their interactions with their siblings.

Only children develop empathy and sharing skills through interactions with adults and friends.Siblings in families with multiple children learn to share toys, space, and attention with their siblings, which promotes empathy as they understand the needs and feelings of others.

Only children may develop a strong sense of responsibility and leadership skills because they often take on the adult role in their interactions with their parents. Older siblings in families with many children often take on responsibilities, such as caring for younger siblings or helping with household chores. This can shape their leadership and nursing abilities.

Therefore, although we all have such abilities, the ways and objects of learning differ, and the time to develop and master such skills may also vary. So we are the same, we are different.


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About the authors

Jing Pu graduated from MA Fine Art: Drawing in 2023. She is a mixed-media artist from China who focuses on the performance of relationships, especially family relationships. More works can be viewed on her personal online platform.

Meng Xu graduated from MA Fine Art: Drawing in 2023. Her practice explores body language that specifically responds to childhood memories. The pure way children communicate influences the objects she builds. Find out more: