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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?

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor Mar 7, 2013 9:43PM

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.

Photo: Single child families / Sonntag/Getty ImagesMore from MSN Living: Top 10 dog names of the year

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

Mar 12, 2013 1:24PM
Why not end by asking, "It is fair to have more than one child?"  Unless you put your kid in a basement and never let him out until he's of age, then he does have outside interaction and will learn.  How is it selfish to have the time, money and energy to raise an individual rather than a group.
Mar 12, 2013 1:14PM
I'm sure the families that are having only one child are the resposible ones, not the ones that have kids in order to receive free handouts for the government.
Mar 12, 2013 1:10PM
It's about time. Save the economy and planet Earth. The days of family owned stores and farms are mostly gone. There is no logical reason to have so many kids. Also, stop giving tax breaks for multiple kid families. Why should there be tax breaks for famlies using more taxes? After 2 they need to start taking money back.
Mar 12, 2013 1:07PM
It's about time people started to have less kids!
Mar 12, 2013 12:58PM
It is really expensive raising kids.  When they go to college it is even worse.  My college daughter figures out her fafsa then we are expected to pay our contribution.  Music lessons and sports are expensive.  When they get sick in school, someone leaves work to go get them.  That Sandberg lady is getting a lot of criticism.  She is wealthy and can afford nannies and housekeepers.  Most middle class families are barely surviving.  i see the logic of one child but it is nice growing up with siblings.  When my parents passed away, my sister and i had each other to navigate all the financial and emotional stuff.  Doing that alone is difficult.  We helped each other.  She is my best friend.  Family always has your back.  If you base having kids on affording them no one will have them.  High school kids can get a job also.  It is much better to have siblings.  They learn to share and the whole world doesn't revolve around them. 
Mar 12, 2013 12:09PM
That one child has a much better chance of survival nowadays than children did in years past and mothers are more likely to have careers, not to mention more access to birth control and abortion.  
Mar 12, 2013 11:13AM
I don't care how many kids they have if the parents are married, the household is stable, and the child(ren) are provided for and looked after.
Mar 12, 2013 10:35AM
Raising a huge family of children 9 months apart ia only feasible to the obama voters. It means a bigger payout and more on the food stamp card. Also, an increase of the population with that same mindset "YOU owe me for my ignorance".
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