Most couples who get married or decide to live together generally plan to have children. Several years ago, having big families was common and this was seen as an advantage. This was mainly because children began working at an early age to help provide for the family. But with the changing times and with the cost of living getting higher every single year, having a big family is no longer considered to be a practical option. In fact, more couples are now considering having only one child and some do not have any desire to become parents at all.
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, by 1986, women aged 40 to 44 years, “were considerably more likely to have given birth to two children than three children (36% vs. 27%) or four or more children (19%). However, taken together, women were still more likely to have had three or more children than to have had two children (46% vs. 36%).
In recent years, “women were more likely to have had two children than three or more children ” a trend that was most marked in the most recent period (38% vs. 25% in 1996; 38% vs. 22% in 2006). These days, most families in Australia have two children. But the number of women who had given birth to a single child increased progressively from only 8% in 1981 to 13% in 2006.
The U.S. Census Bureau states that there are approximately 14 million only children in America today. This comprises 20% of the children’s population compared to only 10% around fifty years ago.
Stigmas with having an only child
Despite the fact that we live in this modern age, however, there are certain stigmas that have been attached to an only child:
- He/she is lonely.
- He/she is self-centred.
- He/she is a spoiled brat
- He/she is selfish.
- He/she always wants attention.
- He/she has a greater tendency of playing with imaginary friends.
- He/she has difficulty socialising.
- He/she is more prone to get sick.
These characteristics, however, are not always apparent in all cases of only children. But there are distinct advantages and disadvantages of having just one child:
Advantages of having one child
1. An only child gets very attached to his/her parents and has a great relationship with them.
2. An only child gets the best in everything ” material things and otherwise.
3. An only child gets his/her parent’s undivided attention.
4. An only child does not have to deal with other siblings
5. An only child does not have to compete with other siblings for his/her parents’ attention.
6. An only child will not be compared (intentionally or not) with another sibling.
7. An only child is more independent.
Disadvantages of having one child
1. An only child may grow up lonely.
2. An only child has no one to grow up with.
3. An only child may get too much pressure from parents, to perform well or excel in school and other activities
4. The parents of an only child tend to be overprotective.
5. An only child may get bored with parental involvement
6. An only child may have a harder time making friends.
7. An only child may be pressure to have children in order to carry on the family name.
8. An only child may become burdened about being the sole caregivers of elderly parents.
9. An only child will never have the experience of having nephews and nieces.
While these advantages and disadvantages focus mainly on the child, the parents also benefit from having an only child while undergoing some negative emotions due to their decision to have only one child.
The most obvious benefit of having only one child for parents is ” they are able to give more to their child in terms of material things as well as their love and attention. But despite this fact, parents of only children these days still undergo some challenges:
- Parents of only children get strange looks or rude remarks from people when they say they have only one child.
- Family and friends tend to pressure them to have more children.
- Parents of only children sometimes feel guilty for not giving their child a sibling.
- Parents of only children are worried about their child being alone after they die.
Deciding to become a parent is already a major decision in itself. Planning on how many children to have is equally important. But whether you want to have one, two, three or more children ” you should always remember that each child that you raise entails having a set of responsibilities.
There are so many dysfunctional families these days because of broken relationships ” between couples and between parent and child. That is why it is imperative that parents are equipped to raise children.
Despite the wealth of information that we have at our fingertips, however, there is no perfect way of raising a child. Even if you grow up in a loving family ” that is not a guarantee you will have the same success when it’s your turn to raise your child. You can read all the books that you want and visit so many websites on the internet ” but nothing can totally prepare you for the actual experience of being a parent.
For new parents, perhaps it would be ideal to start off with just one child. Like any other experience, it is best to feel your way through this one. Even if you’ve read all the available material about parenting, you will learn much more.
For many parents these days, having the experience of parenting one child is enough for them and that is fine. For others, however, they want to have more and that is okay too. But you always have to consider a few very important things:
- Does your partner want to have another child?
- Are you financially capable of raising another child?
- Are you emotionally capable of caring for another child?
- Are you physically capable of taking care of another child?
If you answered yes to all these questions, then you are ready to add another child to the family but if you hesitated on even one of these questions, think carefully. Remember, that the number of your children does not define who you are as a parent. What is important is that you raise your child to be a loving, respectful and responsible person.