Why You Might Want to Rethink Having Another Kid

If you've always dreamed of a big family, you might want to rethink your plans for that second, third, or even fourth baby. A new study says kids from smaller families tend to do better in life

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Why?

It's all about "parental investment."

Economists Chinhui Juhn, Yona Rubinstein, and C. Andrew Zuppann looked at data over a 26-year period and found that every new baby added to a family decreases older kids' cognitive scores by 2.8 percent and brought on more behavior problems.

The reason is the amount of "parental investment," meaning essentially how much time and resources parents have to devote to their kids -- from family dinners to money and attention. And as the parental investment drops, so does a child's ability to thrive, both throughout childhood and even into adulthood, the study says.

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But none of these findings should come as a surprise. Not only are older kids in large families getting less attention as kids are added -- but they're also often required to pick up some of the responsibilities for caring for younger siblings. And forcing kids into parenting roles so young can't be good for them. It certainly isn't fair.

The study points out that older girls in large families will lose more cognitive ability and will most often see basic reading and math scores drop. Older boys in large families, on the other hand, are more likely to act out and have issues with behavior.

It's not like this everywhere else in the world. Parents in countries like the Netherlands receive more support from the government -- like paid parental leave or childcare subsidies -- that helps parents spend more time with their children. The inability for parents in the US to quit their jobs or take on a flexible schedule exacerbates the natural toll that adding kids to the family takes on older sibs.

And so, like most things in life, parenting seems to come down to a quality-versus-quantity equation. The more kids you add to the family, the less of you there is to go around, and that can have a real impact on your kids. Something to consider before you decide to have another baby.

 

Image via Clint Chilcott/Flickr

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