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Bigger Families, Bigger Hearts?

Posted By Judy Williams || 16-Jan-2014

couple photoA recent study has suggested that children who come from families of four or more children are more likely to get married and stay married. Co-authors Douglas Downey, of Ohio State University, and Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, of the National Opinion Research Study at University of Chicago, interviewed nearly sixty thousand adults in their study. After their investigation, they concluded that only-children were less likely to get married and more likely to divorce after marrying.

Families in the two to three child range presented marginal divorce-prevention statistics, but families with four or more children seemed to reduce the instance of divorce by two percent per sibling. Research also deduced that after seven children the benefit leveled out. Upon analyzing their data, Downey and Bobbitt-Zeher noted that “when you compare children from large families to those with only one child, there is a meaningful gap in the probability of divorce.”

With this situation, there can be arguments over whether or not the correlation between large families and lower divorce tangibly represents causation. There are obviously going to be independent variables granted to each specific instance of marriage and divorce, but here are possible theories as to why children from large families grow to be divorce-free adults.

Forced Interaction:

Large families often live in close proximity to each other and have daily interaction with a number of people who represent very close personal relationships. These interactions may frequently lead to enjoyable experiences, but they can also lead to conflict, conflict that must be confronted. Through repetition, siblings are taught to negotiate differences and accommodate others in order to live in a positive environment.

Practice Parenting:

Older siblings have the opportunity to assist in the rearing of children, and siblings who are faced with a slow learning curve or some sort of adolescent controversy have a support branch to assist them. If a child is successful they receive praise, if they struggle they receive support and encouragement.

Adult Sibling Network:

Having close affiliations with siblings in adulthood can be very helpful in the event of something unforeseen. Job loss, illness or another hardship can be detrimental to a marriage, having an established support network of siblings keep things upright can help when times get tough.

A Big Family is a Conscious Decision:

Although not universally true, it could be argued that parents who have many children do so because they are prepared to raise a large family and believe they have the aptitude to care for many children. Essentially, these parents want to be parents opposed to a small family who may have had a child without planning to do so.

Although these all seem like great reasons to have a large family, having many children can be taxing across the board. Children are expensive financially and require the physical and emotional involvement of both parents. Also, while these theories all have their merits as to why large families contribute to lower instances of divorce, large families are often the result of religious beliefs of the parents. Subsequently, these children may feel more compelled to marry and stay married than a child who was raised in a smaller family with more secular beliefs.

What do you think about the subject? Do bigger families lead to lasting marriages?

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