Thursday, August 21, 2008

New research on large families

Action: please pass it on! Civitas, a thinktank, publishes a brilliant rebuttal of the arguments against large families in its latest newsletter, by the television journalist (and father of five) Colin Brazier. Download the Civitas Review here (pdf); read and comment on a Telegraph report here, and read Cassandra Jardine's review feature article here.

Large families are better for the children: they have better social skills, are healthier, and do better at school.
Large families are better for the environment: so obvious you'd have to be a fanatic not not realise - large families are per capita vastly more efficient users of resources than small families.

From Civitas: 'Another Child Matters: Bridging the Middle-Class Baby Gap. By Colin Brazier. - extracts
The decision to have more than two children represents a Rubicon many middle class parents cannot cross. With two children, returning to work – albeit with an expensive childcare bill and lost career momentum – remains an option. But three or more is typically beyond the reach of all but wealthier working parents. The result is two-fold. First, a new fashion for ostentatiously large families among the well-heeled.1 Second, a growing ‘baby-gap’ – between the number of children parents want and the number born – put at about 90,000 a year in Britain.2

On environmental objections to large families:
This analysis is bogus for two reasons. First, in Britain and Australia, birth rates are significantly below replacement levels. The citizens of both countries are guilt-free proxies for the demographic high achievers of the developing world.
Second, it is entirely plausible to argue that, far from being profligate, large families carefully husband resources. A four-person household uses half as much electricity, per capita, as a home for one.20 The number of men under 65 living alone has tripled since 1971.21 The environmental gains of declining fertility in the West are being more than offset by the lifestyle choice of solitary living.

The benefits of siblings:
[Some academics] argue that only-children are ‘less liked’ by their classmates30 and that any dysfunction might not abate with age. Only-children are more likely to change partners through divorce or separation than those with siblings.31 Teachers in one American study of 20,000 children32 found that a pupil’s membership of the awkward squad often hinged on sibship. Results, when controlled for economic circumstances, consistently showed that children from larger families got into fewer fights, made friends more quickly and kept more of them. The report’s authors say their data makes ‘a compelling case for the position that children hone social and interpersonal skills through sibling interactions at home, and that these skills then become useful outside the home’.

Repeated research has shown that allergic conditions like asthma, eczema and hay fever are related to sibship. Several have concluded that sharing a bedroom at an early age increases the number of infections caught from brothers or sisters and stimulates the immune system. The more siblings, the greater the resistnce. One of the biggest recent studies, involving half a million army conscripts, revealed that one in ten only- children developed asthma. In the largest families the figure was closer to one in 200.49 Against this backdrop, putting children into their own rooms looks less like a function or display of aggrandisement and more like immunological folly. Statistical evidence also links big families with a reduced risk of serious diseases including certain types of leukaemia, cancer and diabetes.

Benefits for parenting
The parents of large families come to recognise that not all their offspring can, or should be, top of the class. Conversely, they can afford to be more cavalier since they are likely to find at least one naturally-gifted scholar in their brood. As mother- of-four and author of the Parent Trap Maureen Freely wrote: ‘You might still be trying to live out your fantasies through them, but that still means fewer fantasies per child.’73


Anonymous said...

This is typical Catholic thinking...CONTROL. People that are only children are just as well adjusted as people from large families. I'm an only child and SICK of the comments of others who ASSUME THAT ONLY CHILDREN ARE LIKE A DISEASE. Grow up!

Hercules said...

Why do these guys posting negative comments so often give the impression they haven't read the post?

Anonymous said...

sometimes i wonder just how stupid people are.

More people = more demand on the worlds resources (everything from oil to teak tables and bacon)

More people therefore is a bad things from a purely enivornmental point of view.

It's as simple as that.

Conclusion: Wear a condom

Hercules said...

Smaller households = higher use of resources per head.

Is that too complicated for you?

Anonymous said...

Hercules, whereas one person may live in a home and pay to heat and cool that home for one, my one home does the same for seven people. One may buy bread and it may get stale and thrown out, all of my bread is eaten. Nothing is wasted. When my children grow out of there clothes, we don't have to buy more garments made in china, we pass down the last child's clothing-it's recycled. That is economical.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen