Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 493–502 | Cite as

Only-child and non-only-child exhibit differences in creativity and agreeableness: evidence from behavioral and anatomical structural studies

  • Junyi Yang
  • Xin Hou
  • Dongtao Wei
  • Kangcheng Wang
  • Yadan Li
  • Jiang QiuEmail author
Original Research


Different family composition and size inevitably make only-children different from non-only-children. Previous studies have focused on the differences in behaviors, such as cognitive function and personality traits, between the only-child and the non-only-child. However, there are few studies that have focused on the topic of whether different family environments influence children’s brain structural development and whether behavior differentially has its neural basis between only-child and non-only-child status. Thus, in the present study, we investigated the differences in cognition (e.g., intelligence and creativity) and personality and the anatomical structural differences of gray matter volume (GMV) using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) between only-children and non-only-children. The behavioral results revealed that only-children exhibited higher flexibility scores (a dimension of creativity) and lower agreeableness scores (a dimension of personality traits) than non-only-children. Most importantly, the GMV results revealed that there were significant differences in the GMV between only-children and non-only-children that occurred mainly in the brain regions of the supramarginal gyrus, which was positively correlated with flexibility scores; the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which was positively correlated with agreeableness scores; and the parahippocampal gyrus. These findings may suggest that family environment (i.e., only-child vs. non-only-child), may play important roles in the development of the behavior and brain structure of individuals.


Only-child Supramarginal gyrus Medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) Creativity Agreeableness 


Compliance with ethical standards


This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31271087; 31571137, and 31500885), the National Outstanding young people plan, the Program for the Top Young Talents by Chongqing, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (SWU1509383), the Natural Science Foundation of Chongqing (cstc2015jcyjA10106), and a General Financial Grant from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2015 M572423), the Research Program Funds of the Collaborative Innovation Center of Assessment toward Basic Education Quality (2016-06-012-BZK01).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Brain Imaging Center Institutional Review Board of Southwest China University and with the standards of the Declaration of Helsinki (1991).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Junyi Yang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Xin Hou
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dongtao Wei
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kangcheng Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yadan Li
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jiang Qiu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (SWU), Ministry of EducationChongqingChina
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Southwest UniversityChongqingChina
  3. 3.Southwest University Branch, Collaborative Innovation Center of Assessment toward Basic Education QualityBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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