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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  1. Albert, R. S., & Runco, M. A. (1988). Independence and the creative potential of gifted and exceptionally gifted boys. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 18(3), 221–230.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Andrews-Hanna, J. R., Reidler, J. S., Sepulcre, J., Poulin, R., & Buckner, R. L. (2010). Functional-anatomic fractionation of the brain’s default network. Neuron, 65(4), 550–562.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Arden, R., Chavez, R. S., Grazioplene, R., & Jung, R. E. (2010). Neuroimaging creativity: a psychometric view. Behavioural Brain Research, 214(2), 143–156.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Ashburner, J. (2007). A fast diffeomorphic image registration algorithm. NeuroImage, 38(1), 95–113.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bechtereva, N., Korotkov, A., Pakhomov, S., Roudas, M., Starchenko, M., & Medvedev, S. (2004). PET study of brain maintenance of verbal creative activity. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 53(1), 11–20.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Becker, B., Wagner, D., Koester, P., Tittgemeyer, M., Mercer-Chalmers-Bender, K., & Hurlemann, R. et al. (2015). Smaller amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex predict escalating stimulant use. Brain, awv113.

  7. Berkowitz, A. L., & Ansari, D. (2008). Generation of novel motor sequences: the neural correlates of musical improvisation. NeuroImage, 41(2), 535–543.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Blake, J. (1981). The only child in America: Prejudice versus performance. Population and Development Review, 43–54.

  9. Booth, J. R., Burman, D. D., Meyer, J. R., Gitelman, D. R., Parrish, T. B., & Mesulam, M. M. (2002). Functional anatomy of intra-and cross-modal lexical tasks. NeuroImage, 16(1), 7–22.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Burke, M. O. (1956). A search for systematic personality differentiae of the only child in young adulthood. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 89(1), 71–84.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Cai, H., Kwan, V. S., & Sedikides, C. (2012). A sociocultural approach to narcissism: the case of modern China. European Journal of Personality, 26(5), 529–535.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Chávez-Eakle, R., Martindale, C., Locher, P., & Petrov, V. (2007). Creativity, DNA, and cerebral blood flow. Evolutionary and Neurocognitive Approaches to Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 209–224.

  13. Chen, C. H., Suckling, J., Lennox, B. R., Ooi, C., & Bullmore, E. T. (2011). A quantitative meta‐analysis of fMRI studies in bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorders, 13(1), 1–15.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Neo PI-R professional manual. Odessa: Psychological assessment resources.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Davies, G., Tenesa, A., Payton, A., Yang, J., Harris, S. E., Liewald, D., Ke, X., Le Hellard, S., Christoforou, A., & Luciano, M. (2011). Genome-wide association studies establish that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic. Molecular Psychiatry, 16(10), 996–1005.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. DeYoung, C. G., Hirsh, J. B., Shane, M. S., Papademetris, X., Rajeevan, N., & Gray, J. R. et al. (2010). Testing predictions from personality neuroscience brain structure and the big five. Psychological Science.

  17. DeYoung, C. G., Weisberg, Y. J., Quilty, L. C., & Peterson, J. B. (2013). Unifying the aspects of the Big Five, the interpersonal circumplex, and trait affiliation. Journal of Personality, 81(5), 465–475.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Dietrich, A., & Kanso, R. (2010). A review of EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies of creativity and insight. Psychological Bulletin, 136(5), 822.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Duncan, J., Seitz, R. J., Kolodny, J., Bor, D., Herzog, H., Ahmed, A., Newell, F. N., & Emslie, H. (2000). A neural basis for general intelligence. Science, 289(5478), 457–460.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Dunn, J., & Slomkowski, C. (1992). Conflict and the development of social understanding.

  21. Falbo, T., & Polit, D. F. (1986). Quantitative review of the only child literature: research evidence and theory development. Psychological Bulletin, 100(2), 176.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Falbo, T., Poston, D. L., Ji, G., Jiao, S., Jing, Q., Wang, S., Gu, Q., Yin, H., & Liu, Y. (1989). Physical, achievement and personality characteristics of Chinese children. Journal of Biosocial Science, 21(04), 483–496.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Feng, X. (1992). Social characteristics of urban one-child families. Sociological Research, 1, 108–116.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Fenton, N. (1928). The only child. The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology, 35(4), 546–556.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Festini, F., & de Martino, M. (2004). Twenty five years of the one child family policy in China. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 58(5), 358–360.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Fincham, J. M., Carter, C. S., van Veen, V., Stenger, V. A., & Anderson, J. R. (2002). Neural mechanisms of planning: a computational analysis using event-related fMRI. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99(5), 3346–3351.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Fink, A., Grabner, R. H., Gebauer, D., Reishofer, G., Koschutnig, K., & Ebner, F. (2010). Enhancing creativity by means of cognitive stimulation: evidence from an fMRI study. NeuroImage, 52(4), 1687–1695.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Fletcher, C. (2014). Adult reflections on being an ‘only-child’.

  29. Fossati, P., Hevenor, S. J., Graham, S. J., Grady, C., Keightley, M. L., & Craik, F et al. (2014). In search of the emotional self: an fMRI study using positive and negative emotional words. American Journal of Psychiatry.

  30. Gaynor, J. L., & Runco, M. A. (1992). Family size, birth‐order, age‐interval, and the creativity of children. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 26(2), 108–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Gradin, V. B., Kumar, P., Waiter, G., Ahearn, T., Stickle, C., & Milders, M. et al. (2011). Expected value and prediction error abnormalities in depression and schizophrenia. Brain, awr059.

  32. Gray, J. R., Chabris, C. F., & Braver, T. S. (2003). Neural mechanisms of general fluid intelligence. Nature Neuroscience, 6(3), 316–322.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Graziano, W. G., Habashi, M. M., Sheese, B. E., & Tobin, R. M. (2007). Agreeableness, empathy, and helping: a person × situation perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(4), 583.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Guo, W., Liu, F., Dai, Y., Jiang, M., Zhang, J., Yu, L., Long, L., Chen, H., Gao, Q., & Xiao, C. (2013). Decreased interhemispheric resting-state functional connectivity in first-episode, drug-naive major depressive disorder. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 41, 24–29.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Gusnard, D. A., Akbudak, E., Shulman, G. L., & Raichle, M. E. (2001). Medial prefrontal cortex and self-referential mental activity: relation to a default mode of brain function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98(7), 4259–4264.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Haier, R. J., Jung, R. E., Yeo, R. A., Head, K., & Alkire, M. T. (2004). Structural brain variation and general intelligence. NeuroImage, 23(1), 425–433.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Hamner, M. B., Lorberbaum, J. P., & George, M. S. (1999). Potential role of the anterior cingulate cortex in PTSD: review and hypothesis. Depression and Anxiety, 9(1), 1–14.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Hao, Y., & Feng, X. (2002). The influence of parent–child reIation on the growth of onIy chiId. Journal of Huazhong University of Science and Technology (The Humanities and Social Science Edition), 16(6), 109–112.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Huang, P., Qiu, L., Shen, L., Zhang, Y., Song, Z., Qi, Z., Gong, Q., & Xie, P. (2013). Evidence for a left‐over‐right inhibitory mechanism during figural creative thinking in healthy nonartists. Human Brain Mapping, 34(10), 2724–2732.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Hui, K. K., Marina, O., Liu, J., Rosen, B. R., & Kwong, K. K. (2010). Acupuncture, the limbic system, and the anticorrelated networks of the brain. Autonomic Neuroscience, 157(1), 81–90.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Perrig, W. J. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(19), 6829–6833.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Jiao, S., Ji, G., & Jing, Q. (1996). Cognitive development of Chinese urban only children and children with siblings. Child Development, 67(2), 387–395.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Kiehl, K. A. (2006). A cognitive neuroscience perspective on psychopathy: evidence for paralimbic system dysfunction. Psychiatry Research, 142(2), 107–128.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Kilpatrick, L., & Cahill, L. (2003). Amygdala modulation of parahippocampal and frontal regions during emotionally influenced memory storage. NeuroImage, 20(4), 2091–2099.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Kim, K. H., Cramond, B., & Bandalos, D. L. (2006). The latent structure and measurement invariance of scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking–Figural. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 66(3), 459–477.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Kleibeuker, S. W., Koolschijn, P. C. M., Jolles, D. D., De Dreu, C. K., & Crone, E. A. (2013). The neural coding of creative idea generation across adolescence and early adulthood. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7.

  47. Knauff, M., Kassubek, J., Mulack, T., & Greenlee, M. W. (2000). Cortical activation evoked by visual mental imagery as measured by fMRI. Neuroreport, 11(18), 3957–3962.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Leung, M.-K., Chan, C. C., Yin, J., Lee, C.-F., So, K.-F., & Lee, T. M. et al. (2012). Increased gray matter volume in the right angular and posterior parahippocampal gyri in loving-kindness meditators. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nss076.

  49. Li, S., Chen, R., Cao, Y., Li, J., Zuo, D., & Yan, H. (2013). Sexual knowledge, attitudes and practices of female undergraduate students in Wuhan, China: The only-child versus students with siblings. PloS One, 8(9), e73797.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Li, W., Li, X., Huang, L., Kong, X., Yang, W., & Wei, D. et al. Qiu, J. (2014). Brain structure links trait creativity to openness to experience. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsu041.

  51. Maldjian, J. A., Laurienti, P. J., Kraft, R. A., & Burdette, J. H. (2003). An automated method for neuroanatomic and cytoarchitectonic atlas-based interrogation of fMRI data sets. NeuroImage, 19(3), 1233–1239.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  52. McCrae, R. R. (2011). Personality theories for the 21st century. Teaching of Psychology, 38(3), 209–214.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Ming, W. D. Q. (1989). Revision on the combined Raven’s test for the Rural in China [J]. Psychological Science 5(004).

  54. Nettle, D., & Liddle, B. (2008). Agreeableness is related to social-cognitive, but not social-perceptual, theory of mind. European Journal of Personality, 22(4), 323.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Paulus, M. P., Hozack, N., Frank, L., & Brown, G. G. (2002). Error rate and outcome predictability affect neural activation in prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate during decision-making. NeuroImage, 15(4), 836–846.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Phan, K. L., Taylor, S. F., Welsh, R. C., Ho, S.-H., Britton, J. C., & Liberzon, I. (2004). Neural correlates of individual ratings of emotional salience: a trial-related fMRI study. NeuroImage, 21(2), 768–780.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Piefke, M., Weiss, P. H., Markowitsch, H. J., & Fink, G. R. (2005). Gender differences in the functional neuroanatomy of emotional episodic autobiographical memory. Human Brain Mapping, 24(4), 313–324.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Polit, D. F. (1982). Effects of family size: a critical review of literature since 1973. Final report.

  59. Polit, D. F., & Falbo, T. (1987). Only children and personality development: a quantitative review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 309–325.

  60. Ridgway, G. R., Omar, R., Ourselin, S., Hill, D. L., Warren, J. D., & Fox, N. C. (2009). Issues with threshold masking in voxel-based morphometry of atrophied brains. NeuroImage, 44(1), 99–111.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Sampaio, A., Soares, J. M., Coutinho, J., Sousa, N., & Gonçalves, Ó. F. (2014). The Big Five default brain: functional evidence. Brain Structure and Function, 219(6), 1913–1922.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Sawyer, K. (2011). The cognitive neuroscience of creativity: a critical review. Creativity Research Journal, 23(2), 137–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Saxe, R., & Powell, L. J. (2006). It’s the thought that counts specific brain regions for one component of theory of mind. Psychological Science, 17(8), 692–699.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Shalley, C. E., Gilson, L. L., & Blum, T. C. (2009). Interactive effects of growth need strength, work context, and job complexity on self-reported creative performance. Academy of Management Journal, 52(3), 489–505.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Silvia, P. J., Winterstein, B. P., Willse, J. T., Barona, C. M., Cram, J. T., Hess, K. I., & Richard, C. A. (2008). Assessing creativity with divergent thinking tasks: exploring the reliability and validity of new subjective scoring methods. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 2(2), 68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Sohn, M.-H., Ursu, S., Anderson, J. R., Stenger, V. A., & Carter, C. S. (2000). The role of prefrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex in task switching. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 97(24), 13448–13453.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Takeuchi, H., Taki, Y., Hashizume, H., Sassa, Y., Nagase, T., Nouchi, R., & Kawashima, R. (2011). Cerebral blood flow during rest associates with general intelligence and creativity. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t. PLoS One, 6(9), e25532. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025532.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Takeuchi, H., Taki, Y., Sassa, Y., Hashizume, H., Sekiguchi, A., Nagase, T., Nouchi, R., & Kawashima, R. (2012). Regional gray and white matter volume associated with Stroop interference: evidence from voxel-based morphometry. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t]. NeuroImage, 59(3), 2899–2907. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.09.064.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Takeuchi, H., Taki, Y., Nouchi, R., Sekiguchi, A., Kotozaki, Y., Miyauchi, C. M., Yokoyama, R., Iizuka, K., Hashizume, H., Nakagawa, S., Kunitoki, K., Sassa, Y., & Kawashima, R. (2014). Regional gray matter density is associated with achievement motivation: evidence from voxel-based morphometry. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t]. Brain Structure and Function, 219(1), 71–83. doi:10.1007/s00429-012-0485-3.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Tang, C., Li, A., Huang, H., Cheng, X., Gao, Y., Chen, H., Li, P., Cheng, X.-M., & Zuo, Q. (2012). Effects of lead pollution in SY River on children’s intelligence. Life Science Journal, 9(3), 458–464.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Tierney, P., & Farmer, S. M. (2002). Creative self-efficacy: its potential antecedents and relationship to creative performance. Academy of Management Journal, 45(6), 1137–1148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Torrance, E. P. (1987). Teaching for creativity. Frontiers of Creativity Research: Beyond the Basics, 189, 215.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Wang, N. (1984). The socialization of the only child in China. Paper presented at the Conference on Child Socialization and Mental Health. Honolulu: East–west Center.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Wei, D., Du, X., Li, W., Chen, Q., Li, H., & Hao, X et al. (2014). Regional gray matter volume and anxiety-related traits interact to predict somatic complaints in a non-clinical sample. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsu033.

  75. Wei, D., Yang, J., Li, W., Wang, K., Zhang, Q., & Qiu, J. (2014b). Increased resting functional connectivity of the medial prefrontal cortex in creativity by means of cognitive stimulation. Cortex, 51, 92–102.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  76. Worsley, K. J., Marrett, S., Neelin, P., Vandal, A. C., Friston, K. J., & Evans, A. C. (1996). A unified statistical approach for determining significant signals in images of cerebral activation. Human Brain Mapping, 4(1), 58–73.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jiang Qiu.

Ethics declarations

Funding

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.

Additional information

Junyi Yang and Xin Hou contributed equally to this work.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Yang, J., Hou, X., Wei, D. et al. Only-child and non-only-child exhibit differences in creativity and agreeableness: evidence from behavioral and anatomical structural studies. Brain Imaging and Behavior 11, 493–502 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11682-016-9530-9

Download citation

Keywords

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