Which Is Better — A Small Family Or Big Family?

By David NaarLast Updated Apr 14, 2021 3:17:26 PM ET
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As you start to plan your family, it’s natural to ponder what that might look like. Whether you hope to have one child or six, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to size. In addition to matters out of your control, there are several factors that can weigh in on your decision to have more than one child. From finances to family dynamics, there are pros and cons to any size family. To help you decide what size family may be a good fit for you, we’ve taken a look at the advantages and disadvantages of families of every size.

Big Family Benefits

In a big family, everything is bigger. For some parents, this is a bonus. There are more personalities, more people to love, more children under your roof, and more relationships at play.

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In fact, one major benefit is the relationships your children have with one another. With more children, each child always has a companion. As small children, they always have a playmate. This helps take some of the pressure off of you and your partner when you need a few minutes to get something done.

As older children age and gaps widen between kids, you’ll also find you have built-in babysitters. Older children are able to help care for younger children, even if it’s only for a few moments. For your kids, there’s no closer bond than with a sibling. They have a built-in friendship that hopefully carries with them into adulthood.

Financially, there are also some benefits to having a large family. While more people mean more mouths to feed, think of it as an economy of scale. You’ll be able to buy in bulk and cook larger meals. You’ll also get the advantage of hand-me-down clothes and baby gear.

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Moreover, children in bigger families report being happier on average. Kids in big families learn teamwork, sharing, how to play alone, and how to play and interact with large groups. They also have a buffer if a relationship with a sibling or parent is strained for a time. That is, there's always someone to vent to or confide in. As adults, your kids also have the advantage of adult sibling relationships, in-laws, cousins, and grandchildren. If your big family grows up to have big families of their own, your built-in support network will expand too.

Disadvantages of a Big Family

While a big family offers your children constant companionship, there are a few family dynamics that are trickier to navigate with more than one or two children in the mix. Dedicated one-on-one time with you, for example, will be harder the more children you have. One way to fix this? Make spending individual time with each child a priority. Set calendar dates like you would for a work meeting to do something for you and one of your children. Rotate around so that each child gets some alone time with you and your partner.

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You can also do this with mini-groups. One parent can take the big kids to a water park, for example, while another takes the smaller children to a splash pad. Older children may be able to go to dinner with mom and dad while the younger kids stay with a babysitter. Days like this will help make sure kids get the attention they need.

Of course, finances are another sticking point for some families when it comes to having more children. More children may mean a bigger home, and, moreover, you could end up spending more on activities, education, travel, and recreation. Family vacations may need to be a bit more creative to cut down on costs when it comes to hotels and airfare.

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Depending on where you live, the size of your home might also be a disadvantage. In high-priced real estate markets or dense urban areas, square footage comes at a premium. You may need to consider moving further out from a city center or living in smaller quarters with kids sharing rooms.

Advantages of Having a Small Family

Having a small family has its perks. The relationship between a parent and their child may be closer without the demands of other children on their parent’s attention. Financially, having one or two kids is more cost-effective when it comes to housing, education, the size of your car, and recreational activities.

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With one or two children, it becomes more feasible to help them pursue activities, like sports or music, while giving them more focus and time — instead of running around from event to event as you might with a larger family. Additionally, traveling becomes a little bit easier (and less costly) with fewer children.

While your child may not have siblings, this also means there’s no one to fight with. While sibling dynamics can lead to fulfilling relationships, they can also be complicated and a source of stress, especially if your kids develop a rivalry when it comes to excelling in activities or fighting for your attention.

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Disadvantages of a Small Family

While there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to determining the size of your family, having just one child could come with some disadvantages. The biggest? Not having a sibling relationship means much more than not having a playmate. Only children may have a more difficult time socializing, sharing, or having empathy for others. Moreover, the parent often needs to be their sole playmate, entertainment, and support system, which can be challenging.

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As parents age, this also means the only child bears the duty of caring for them. With siblings, children are able to divide up helping out their parents if one passes away or becomes ill later in life.

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Remember: no matter which family size you choose, there are pros and cons to everything. In the end, you’ll make the most of each of your relationships, so do what feels right emotionally and financially for everyone in your household.