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Americans prefer smaller family size

Published: Tuesday, July 5 2011 2:07 p.m. MDT

Family sizes in America may be shrinking as the preference for fewer children is growing, according to a recent Gallup Poll. In the 1930s, when Gallup started measuring the preferred family size of Americans, 64 percent thought the ideal family size consisted of three or more children.

Today, 58 percent of Americans say the ideal is no more than two children. The Gallup Poll also showed that households with higher incomes preferred having fewer children than lower-income households. There was little variation between men and women about the number of children they preferred to have.

Attitudes about birth trends are shifting according to Pew Research, because people are waiting longer to get married, and women aren't starting to have children until the end of their reproductive years. Because women have fewer years of healthy childbearing when they wait to have children, couples are having fewer children. The current economic situation also plays a role in the desire for fewer children.

A New Jersey family therapist and author, Alan Singer, addresses ideal family sizes and happiness in his book, "Creating Your Perfect Family Size: How to Make an Informed Decision about Having a Baby," according to MyCentralJersey.com.

Children raised in small families tend to be more comfortable around adults earlier on and this is likely due to the fact they receive more one-on-one time with their parents, according to Psychology.JRank.org. Children, however, in smaller families often experience parents who hover, which stifles their ability to adapt to society and become independent.

While Americans may not be choosing to have larger families, the benefits outweigh the struggles of raising multiple children, according to the Telegraph, Children who grow up in larger families are more successful, as well as happier. Having more children teaches them many valuable lessons, including how to share a room, which boosts their immune system; and better prepares them for marriage and how to work, when chores are instigated. While children may get less parental help with homework, it is made up by the help of siblings, who also gain valuable skills by teaching their younger siblings.

Colin Brazier of Sky News was reported in the Telegraph as saying, "We are so often told about the disadvantages of large families that we have lost sight of the hidden advantages."

Beyond the emotional and sociological benefits, the Telegraph points out environmental benefits to having a larger family. "A four-person household uses half as much electricity, per capita, as a home for one," the article said.

According to the Telegraph, reducing the emphasis on the parent/child relationship and shifting more weight on to sibling/sibling relationships helps create more capable adults. It "also means that twentysomethings from big families are less likely to join the growing hordes who live at home, behaving like 'kidults' well past the age when they should be taking responsibility for themselves.

EMAIL: awhatcott@desnews.com

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