As a mom of five, I know there are things my kids go without that have become normal for children in smaller families. Their own bedrooms, for example, and new toys and non-hand-me-down clothes. And when it comes to activities, my offspring have to choose wisely. There’s simply not enough time to chauffeur five kids around to several activities each, and in a large family the extracurricular budget can only stretch so far.
But it had never occurred to me that those tradeoffs might lead to an inferior set of human beings until I saw the headline on this article in the Globe and Mail: “Do big families affect the ‘quality’ of children’?
Luckily, the answer – at least according to the reporter’s criteria – seems to be “not so much.”According to the article, researcher Marc Frenette is studying families with twins – he specifically chose multiples for the “surprise” family growth element – in comparison to children from families who do not contain twins. He found that there are some differences between kids from families with multiples and those without – for one thing, kids in twin families get less computer time; 14.1 percent less. Children from twin families are less likely to go to private school. And parents of twins are less likely to save money for their kids’ college. According to the Globe and Mail article, in the end, it doesn’t really matter:
Fifteen year olds from families with twins do no worse than other children in international standardized assessments of reading achievement. If anything, they appear to do slightly better — but there are too few families with twins in Frenette’s sample to know whether the difference is statistically significant.
I can’t say I’m too surprised. Computer time and private school hardly seem to me to be creators of “quality” children, whatever that means. Since the subjects are only 15, it’s possible that the parents not saving for college will make a more marked difference down the road, but I have never thought that going to college automatically makes somebody a more “quality” person, nor that the only way to get to college is through your parents’ pocketbook.
I think what surprised me most is that the article actually suggested some practices might churn out more “quality” kids! Are high standardized test scores the measure of quality in a human being? How about qualities like kindness, compassion, generosity, self-reliance and perspective?
Of course I want my kids to succeed in life, but their college careers, test scores and GPA don’t even factor in to my idea of what makes them “quality” people.
Did you plan your family size around being able to offer your children extracurricular activities, private school or paid-up college tuition? What qualities do you most hope to instill in your children?