Thursday, February 09, 2012

Family: Does Size Matter?

Welcome to the first Family Size Blog Carnival!

This post was written for inclusion in the Family Size Blog Carnival hosted by Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling and Patti at Jazzy Mama. Today our participants share their decisions on family size and whether or not to grow their families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


One of the most important questions I ask couples who see me for marital therapy is how many children they plan on having. I ask it because I worry that if they have problems with their marriage or children the last thing they need now is more children. I firmly believe that incorrect family-size decisions are contributing to the astronomical divorce rate in this country.

During the last forty years, a multitude of social science researchers have shown a strong correlation between children and marital satisfaction. It is, by definition, a negative correlation: with the arrival of each child, marital satisfaction decreases. If marital satisfaction continues to decline, couples may end up with the perfect family size but will have a perfectly lousy marriage. Their perfect family won’t remain that way if problems related to the number of children end their marriage.

Here is my contribution to the research on family size: I studied the responses of two groups of individuals in two New Jersey counties who responded to an anonymous survey. Half of the respondents were therapists by design. I listed biased statements, such as “children from small families tend to be more intelligent.” I hypothesized that gender, level of education, religion, or income level of the respondent might have something to do with how they answered the questions in the survey. I was wrong. The most significant characteristics of the respondents are:
  1. The number of children a respondent currently.
  2. The number of children in a respondent’s family of origin.
For much of my professional career, I have heard many young couples make seemingly innocuous statements such as, “I grew up in a home with three children, so we’re going to have three kids.” Can you please explain that reasoning to me? My own research has shown that on average, people tend to have the same number of children as their family of origin. Yet, I still consider it a poor reason to have another child.

Before marriage, couples need to be of one mind in only one aspect of the family-size decision and that is that they both desire to have at least one child. Deciding the total number of children you want at the start of your relationship is a waste of your time. Deliberating the ideal number of children in a family is also a waste of your time. Deciding if you are both now ready to have a child or have another child is the best use of your time. And what’s the perfect number of children? My response: as many or as few, as long as you think it through.

I plead with couples: Don’t be coerced or guilted into having another child. The only good reason to have another child is that you both truly love the child you have, you love being parents, and regardless of gender, you both want another child.


Visit City Kids Homeschooling and Jazzy Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Family Size Blog Carnival!

Please take some time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants below:

  • The Perfect Family The family at Living Peacefully With Children isn't perfect, but the size is just right for least for now.

  • Family Size Carnival Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses how she loves the extremes of being happily child-free for life to being a mom of several. And on knowing when her family is just the right size.

  • Is Adoption for Me? Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares why she would consider adoption as the socially responsible way to have a large family.

  • Getting Used to Having Kids Lauren at Hobo Mama went from "probably one, maybe two" to wanting a handful, but not without some major struggles and soul searching along the way.

  • Magic Number For a while, Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales has wondered what the magic number will be for their family, but now thinks she's finally settled on an answer.

  • How Did You Get That Size Jorje explains how she "chose" her family size and why they aren't planning to grow again on Momma

  • Family Size On A Per Kid Basis Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how plans change as families grow.

  • More Babies: How, When, Why Joella at Fine and Fair writes to her daughter about when, how, and why she might get a sibling.

  • Family Size Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares how she has no idea what size her family will end up being; though she used to be sure, a few factors have recently come up to change everything.

  • Thy Will Be Done CatholicMommy hasn't decided how many children she'll have. And she never will. Because, you know, she's Catholic.

  • Sanity and Health Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment talks about sanity and health considerations when deciding on her family's size.

  • Love Comes In All Sizes Melissa at Mothers of Change shares her family's journey to becoming a family of six!

  • Family Size Liz at Homeschooling in Buffalo discusses how this carnival occurs less than two weeks after "closing up shop" by way of vasectomy.

  • Family Size Blog Carnival Billy, a single mother by choice, writes about the size of her family at My Pathway to Motherhood.

  • Creating Your Perfect Family Size Dr. Alan Singer shares insights from his new book, Creating Your Perfect Family Size.

  • Our Family Size You might not be surprised to learn that Patti at Jazzy Mama can't find any reasons NOT to have more babies.

  • Economics of Family Size Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling uses an economic cost-benefit analysis to determine her family's optimal size.


Kerry McDonald, M.Ed. said...

Thanks for participating in today's family size blog carnival! Your perspectives on family size are interesting and I agree with you that parents should make sure that their relationship is strong and loving before welcoming more children.

-Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling

Kat said...

Very interesting! I totally agree that a couple has to be in complete agreement on how many children to add, otherwise one could end up resenting the other and like you say, end in a "lousy marriage". Thanks for sharing your work :-)

Fine and Fair said...

This is wonderful advice! :)

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said...

Thank you for sharing your insights for the carnival. I tend to agree that decisions that affect the family unit need to be made in a safe space of mutual trust and openness.

My partner and I were together for 15 years before we decided to have children. We discussed both being child-free, as well as each additional child to bring in to our family.

We haven't always been in agreement at every stage, but we've been able to really listen and empathize with each other. And now that we have kids, we've taken into account their experience and opinions.

With that said, I don't think anyone can truly understand the huge responsibility of a new child, even if you've done it before. You can work through as many issues as you can, but there are always unknowns that will rise up when dealing with stress as parents.

Patti @ Jazzy Mama said...

I'm always shocked (and yes, I admit, rather judgemental) when I see that a family who is already experiencing a very unhappy marriage is expecting another child. Do parents sometimes think that a new baby works like glue to hold them together? I feel so fortunate to have a partner who enjoys our children as much as I do and who is supportive and generous. I'm not sure what my reaction would be if he decided that he really didn't want anymore children. I expect that it will be a decision that we reach amicably together.

Thank you for participating in the Carnival of Family Size.

Dr. Alan M. Singer said...

That's why I tell couples that its a waste of time to discuss how many total children they want...before getting married. They need to decide and be of one mind in one vital decision--if they want to have a child. A couple that I counsel cross-country via Skype just reiterated to me that she has her heart set on a large family like her family of origin (4) and he is not sure if he even wants more than 1 or max 2 children.
I'm on the side of the children---and they need their parents to have a strong healthy relationship considerably more than they need another sibling or two.
Worst possible scenario: having a child to fix a problematic relationship....Oy!

Dr. Alan M. Singer said...

How true re the Unknowns of parenting Zoie!
I offer pre-marital counseling to couples and we naturally discuss FamSize decisions. While I DO believe that pre-marital counseling helps couples, just because you "discuss" the sleep deprivation from an infant, doesn't mean that you are at all prepared for the physical impact of days and nights with little or no sleep.