Growing up with siblings can teach you many lessons about sharing, looking after others and making sure you get to the biscuit tin first. But while there might be plenty of benefits to having brothers and sisters, new research now suggests people who come from a large family face problems at school.
According to a study from the University of Houston, children from big families are more likely to suffer behavioural issues and fall behind in class.
“Families face a substantial quantity-quality trade-off: increases in family size decrease parental investment, decrease childhood performance on cognitive tests and measures of social behaviour,” the research claims.
“Importantly, we find that these negative effects are not merely temporary disruptions following a birth but in fact persist throughout childhood.” The worrying thing is that the scientists think the issues could persist into early adulthood. If this is true, these early experiences could shape people for the rest of their lives.
“A lot of what happens in early childhood has lasting impacts,” co-author Dr Chinhui Juhn said.
“In many respects, this matters more than a lot of things that happen later in (a child’s) life.”
To draw their conclusions, experts looked at data from older children, investigating the time before and after their younger siblings were born.
The more children, the less ‘parental investment’, which is the time spent with individual children, the environment and the resources available, including money and books.
The study also scored mothers on the Armed Force Qualification Test, which reveals information about socioeconomic factors. Mothers with a low score are more likely to be in financial difficulty. The findings were not straightforward, as those with a mother with a median score were less affected by siblings. The study also neglected to investigate fathers.
In conclusion, it seemed that children from large families with financial difficulties suffered the most.
“If you are in a well-resourced family, some of these things don’t apply,” Dr Juhn summarized.
“When the second child comes along, there is less time and attention. But in an environment with more resources, it’s not as binding.”