The Case for Having Only One Child
Several weeks ago, I gave George Mason University economics professor Bryan Caplan’s book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids a look. Caplan offered go-against-the-grain opinions as to why he thinks it’s a fabulous idea to go forth and multiply and have more than just two kids.
Soon after my column was published, I heard from social psychologist Susan Newman whose new book, The Case for the Only Child offers up her own challenge-the-conventional-wisdom take, suggesting that for many families, having one child is not only the right decision but the better one. So, to be fair, I gave Newman’s book a look because the topic of family size, apparently, is a highly charged one that seems to put everybody on the defensive.
One-child families are evolving into the “New Traditional Family,” Newman, the mother of one, asserted, citing U.S. Census data indicating that one-child families are “growing at a faster rate than families with two children.” Why is this happening? A whole bunch of reasons, chief among them, Newman said, is the hefty sticker price (she labeled offspring as “big-ticket” items), “the desire to be model parents, the demands and stress of children on their parents.”
“When men and women were asked why they limited their family’s size, 56 percent of women and 40 percent of men said the reason was the stress of raising children,” Newman wrote. She quoted a mother of one who decided that her friends who had more than one child weren’t as blissful as she: “Children are supposed to bring parents happiness; then I looked at the hectic lives my friends led with more than one child and said, ‘not for me.’ I’m a big advocate for stopping at one.”
In this bleak economy, you also can’t discount the impact that having a child has on a woman’s career, particularly if she has multiple children, requiring multiple leaves of absence, Newman said: “Mothers pay a much greater price than fathers in terms of [the] stress and overwork that comes with raising a family. Women, as the declining fertility rates suggest, continue to think about what it means for them to have a second child.”
With just one kid, parents can “provide the best for children in time, attention and educational opportunities,” Newman wrote.
But parents have to get to the point where they feel comfortable with that decision, something which Newman hopes her book will help them do, particularly when the folks considering having a single child are slammed with not only pressure and guilt from family and friends to have more, but are told that singletons will somehow be damaged by being raised alone. “With pressure coming at you from many directions, deciding to stop at one child can be wrenching - sometimes a harder choice than just giving in and having another child,” said Newman. “The decision is no simpler when faced with long-held stigmas about only children.”