The impact on parents
Andra said that much of the research she uncovered focused on the impact of larger families on parents — not kids. The average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is $237,482, according to LendingTree. But this cost is even higher in some states and doesn’t include the additional expenses of post-secondary education that usually comes after kids turn 18.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Having three or more children had a negative impact on parents’ cognitive abilities, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Robert Butler Columbia Aging Center and Université Paris-Dauphine–PSL.
“The negative effect of having three or more children on cognitive functioning is not negligible, it is equivalent to 6.2 years of aging,” said Eric Bonsang, PhD, one of the researchers.
Meanwhile, a Pew Research study found that 41 percent of American adults with children said parenting was “tiring” while 29 percent considered it “stressful” all or most of the time. Tired and stressed parents might find it more difficult to deal with more kids, which potentially impacts outcomes for the kids, too.
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The impact on kids
Andra admitted there’s a significant lack of research on how large family sizes impact children’s mental and emotional well-being. However, from personal experience of growing up with two siblings, she believes parents with more kids have lower expectations and outsource some parenting tasks to older siblings.
Meanwhile, research published by the American Psychological Association found that a child with more than one sibling was more likely to be bullied... usually by the older ones.
Bullying between siblings is “often seen as a normal part of growing up by parents and health professionals, but there is increasing evidence that it can have long-term consequences, like increased loneliness, delinquency and mental health problems,” said Dieter Wolke, PhD, of the University of Warwick, one of the lead researchers on the study.
What’s an ideal number of kids?
Having children is a personal choice and depends on your life goals and financial situation.
However, a recent Gallup poll uncovered interesting trends about America’s consensus on family sizes.
Ninety percent of Americans either have or wish to have children, with 2.7 children as the average family size. However, 45 percent of Americans considered three or more children to be ideal — the highest ratio since 1971.
Despite this stated preference, the U.S. fertility rate was just 1.66 in May 2023, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
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