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What’s The Perfect Number? The Benefits Of A Big Family by Jacki Christopher

At Welcome Baby Care, parents and babies are our business. We know that parenthood is a blessing that cannot be surpassed, even taking into account the trials, the sleepless nights, and the economic strains. But this week we’re not only saying that families bring a lot of benefits, we’re saying that when it comes to kids, the more the merrier.

Is There A Perfect Number? When it comes down to it, we love families of all sizes. And there is certainly nothing wrong with a decision to cap the kid number at one, two, or three. But many parents feel a little skeptical about stepping over the four-child threshold into the realm of “big family.” We’re here to say that if you’re dreaming of kids number four, five, and six (or more!), be encouraged. There are a lot of advantages to a well-stocked quiver.

While the national average for number of children per family is down (2.09 in the United States), it doesn’t mean that there is some new, unwritten law against big families. Critics cite overpopulation and economic demands as justifications for keeping the family unit tight and compact, but when you consider population statistics, you see that this negative pressure is not only unwarranted, it’s potentially harmful.

Why Society Needs Big Families. Here’s a quick little lesson on population stats and what they really mean: the replacement rate worldwide is between 2.1 and 2.3 children. Which is to say, this is the number of children each woman needs to have simply to keep population levels stable.

While we don’t have children for what they can do for us, the reality is that children grow up to support an aging population. This is the economic circle of life. When the fertility rate drops below the replacement rate, a nation’s economy can suffer because there aren’t enough young workers to support those who are at the end of their wage-earning careers but may yet have many years left in their bones. With longer life expectancies, more seniors need more care for more years. Thus, in economic terms, there is a need for positive population growth and replacement. You’ll notice that the U.S., as of 2010, was below just below the replacement rate.

The Personal Advantages. But statistics and population replacement aren’t the only benefits of a large brood. While some people may worry that more kids in a family means that each gets less attention (read: neglect). Research doesn’t support this. Rather, kids learn to interact and receive love and attention from several sources (brothers, sisters, and other relatives) rather than solely from mom and dad.

Children in large families also understand that each person in the family must play a role. A larger family naturally requires more work, chores, and attention to younger siblings. Each child thus makes a needed contribution to the successful operation of the household—a sense of teamwork and healthy responsibility are the results. And rather than burdening children, this sense of being a part of something bigger teaches them to be service-oriented and concerned more with the needs of others than their own selfish whims. They also learn the important lessons of sharing and delayed gratification.

Siblings of varying ages provide important social interaction and stimulation. Older children teach the younger, and likewise younger children teach their older siblings how to care for them—imparting valuable parenting skills. These kids learn how to navigate conflict and sharpen their interpersonal skills. Children in large families also learn how to deal with differences on an intimate level. You can pick your playmates, but you can’t pick your siblings. Each has his or her own unique personality. A large family cultivates the ability to interact with unique and even difficult personalities—an asset our society can always use more of.

What do you think about big families? Did you grow up in a full house? What’s your dream number for your own family?

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