Single child families: The new normal?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the single child family is the fastest-growing family unit. Is one child the new traditional family - and is it fair?
Nearly half of children in the U.K. are in single-child families, Aquarius magazine reports. It’s the same in some parts of the U.S. where according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the single child family is the fastest-growing family unit.
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Gallup first measured Americans' preferred family size in 1936, at which time close to two-thirds (64 percent) thought three or more children was ideal. This view stretched to 77 percent at the end of World War II and remained near 70 percent for an additional two decades. But attitudes shifted in the 1970s following the publication of the book "The Population Bomb," which warned of the catastrophic risks of overpopulation.
As U.S. birth rates drop – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the country experienced a four percentage point decline in live births between 2007 and 2009 – and preferences continue to shift toward smaller family sizes, the great only child debate rages on.
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Take Carmen* for example. The 32-year-old woman loved growing up sans siblings and would highly recommend it.
“In my opinion, children without siblings are higher achievers because they’re exposed to increased parental scrutiny,” she told Aquarius magazine. “When the spotlight is on you, and only you, you pull your socks up that bit higher.”
In his book, “Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families,” author Bill McKibben reveals that only children also score higher when it comes to making friends, adjusting to new environments, self-control and interpersonal skills.
Amelia*, 46, is one of four siblings and mother of four children, believes in the benefits from growing up with a sister or brother at home.
“Growing up in a big family, there were times I would quite happily have swapped all my siblings for the chance to have my own bedroom,” she told Aquarius magazine. “But as adults, they are my go-to people – a phenomenon researchers at Ohio State University call the ‘hour glass effect of siblings.’ meaning how we grow apart and then grow back together in later years.”
Tell us on Facebook: Do you think it's fair to have an only child? What are the positives and negatives of this family dynamic?
*Names changed to protect identity
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Photo: Single child families / Sonntag/Getty Images
My sister and I just lost our Dad to cancer about a month ago. I'm 28 and she's 25. My parents were divorced about 8 years ago, so it's just my sister and I. I can't imagine not having someone there that I grew up with and can relate fully to, going through all of this. My husband and I have one child right now, and I just recently found out we will be expecting another one this fall. We were not for sure if we wanted more than one child, as it is easier to travel and be a little more free financially. However, after everything with my Dad, I am glad that our son will have another sibling in life to share good things, as well as those bad things that can happen unexpectedly in life!
I think it is a choice for many. However, I also know many more who are simply not able to have more than one. Fertility treatments or adoption (which can run upward of $50,000) are out of reach for lots of people one time, let alone multiple times. Furthermore, there is the commonly held (and erroneous) assumption that all women who try to start families later in life do so by choice, when, in fact, there may be a whole lot of circumstances beyond their control.
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