Bigger might be better when it comes to pay packets, but when it comes to families, small is where it’s at. So says new research that found each additional child in a family results in less time for the others, and can lead to behavioural problems and educational struggles.
The results of the research were published by the National Bureau of Economic Research and shows that as families grow, kids suffer. The study found that if less attention is given to children by parents, their cognitive abilities decrease and behaviour gets worse.
The study traces 26 years of data on parents and children and found each additional child resulted in less time for the others, resulting in lower scores on reading and math tests and anxiety, dependence, hyperactivity and social problems.
The researchers, Chinhui Juhn, Yona Rubinstein, and C. Andrew Zuppann, used data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, SBS reports.
“Not only do we fail to find evidence that the impact is transitory, effects appear to substantially worsen over the longer run,” the researchers write. “Test scores and parental investments are both worse over the longer horizon than in the short run. Only in behavioral problems do we find that the effects may dissipate over the longer run.”
But it’s not the same for boys and girls. When siblings come along, girls’ cognitive abilities suffer but when boys have younger siblings, their behaviour worsens instead.
Previous research on the subject has been mixed. SBS reports that in Norway, the negative effects of large families were not so strong, perhaps because Norway has a strong social safety net which lessens the effect of decreased parental involvement.