Children who come from large families are more likely to struggle in life than those with fewer siblings, researchers have claimed.
Academics at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) gathered data on 11,464 children from various family sizes. They found that children born into large families tended to have more difficulties at school and more behavioural problems than others their age. In fact, these problems got worse with each child added to a family. Researchers called this a “quantity-quality trade-off”.
The data was gathered from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which tested children’s reading and maths skills. This survey also included information about their behaviour and home life, such as how often their parents read to them.
In their report, the authors wrote that the effects were “not merely temporary disruptions following a birth but in fact persist throughout childhood”. They found that each time parents have another child, the amount of time, resources, and affection they give that child is slightly lower than the older siblings.
However, they wrote that their study does not “rule out the possibility that children and parents may be happier … in larger families, despite the lower investments in children”. Last year, Australian researchers made such a claim when their work suggested that the happiest families had four children.
The full NBER report can be read online here.