The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.
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Why more and more families in the United States have only one child

In the United States, it has long been believed that being an only child in a family is a disease. They called her that — one child’s syndrome. So the disease was christened by the influential psychologist Grenville Hall at the end of the 19th century, who founded the first psychological analysis laboratories in the USA. He described the only child in the family as “ugly, with bad behavior and stupid”, concluding that “being alone in the family is a disease in itself”. Although his methods of analysis do not stand up to criticism, the children he studied grew on farms and did not go to kindergarten, and sometimes to school. But the stereotype has taken root.

Фото: Depositphotos

For subjective and objective reasons, I have one child. And I, of course, wonder if such children are different from living in families with brothers and sisters. To readers who see propaganda in everything, I’ll note: I don’t impose my life choices or opinions - I share the information that I found myself. And this exposition does not claim to be a comprehensive and comprehensive coverage of the topic.

One child in the family is becoming an increasingly popular choice for parents.

The number of women in the United States who give birth to only one child by the end of their reproductive age is growing. In 1976, there were only 11% of them, in 2015, 22%. Demographers point to the following reasons for this trend.

Parents can spend more than 233 000 dollars on a child born in 2015 year before his majority.

Women later marry and, as a result, have a shorter fertility window and fewer children in general. The birth rate in the United States rose by 0.1% last year after a steady fall from 2008 and amounts to 1,7 children per woman.

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Raising a child in the USA is an expensive pleasure. Even without college costs, parents can spend more than 233 000 dollars on a child born in 2015 before he comes of age.

In the United States, it is difficult for women to combine full-time work, career and caring for a newborn, because there is no parental leave at the state level. I was forced to go to work three months after the birth of my son, although I was ready to stay at home even without payment.

In a survey of the “One Child” project, in which 5000 families took part, among the reasons why they limited themselves to one child, 25% said that this was exactly what they wanted, 21% said it was impossible to get pregnant and bear a child, 17% referred to financial concerns , 16% - for the age of the mother, 12% - for other medical problems.

For comparison: in the UK, 40% of married couples have one child. In Ukraine, this figure is even higher - 76%, while only 17% of young people say that they wanted exactly so many children. One of the main reasons sociologists called poverty.

According to the UN, in Ukraine the birth rate, falling to a very low level in the 2003 year, rose quite quickly to the 2014, after which it began to fall again and now amounts to 1,4 children per woman. (Ukraine-like birth rate in Poland, Greece, Portugal, Spain; the lowest - 1 child per woman - in South Korea).

Leading researcher on this topic, Tony Falby, psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, whom I turned to for clarification, says that social norms also influence family decisions. She points out that among the urban population of China, even after the abolition of the policy of birth control, families are still limited mainly to one child.

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“Although the norm of one child in a family was previously a rare occurrence, I think it will be more common, especially taking into account our actions in response to climate change,” she suggests.

Close relationship with one child

In her study published in 1986, having studied more than 200 children (with and without siblings), Falby saw that strong and better relationships with parents distinguished loners from the rest.

В Research At Frankfurt University, sociologists have found that with 20 000 German schoolchildren 25% of only children believe that they have a very good relationship with their parents. But just a little less than 24% of older children, 20% of middle and 18% of younger ones think the same way.

The difference, as we see, is small, and this, of course, depends more on the parents, and in some cases - on the children themselves.

At the same time, when we have a niece staying with us, the same age as our son, we immediately see a change in the internal dynamics: our only family unit, where for our son we are the main partners in games and communication, breaks up into two components - adults and children. With the latter, who are completely focused on each other, we begin to talk in commands: “go eat”, “tidy up the room”, “10 minutes, and let everyone sleep.”

Of course, this is not a pure experiment - few have children with a difference of 9 months; our children do not compete for the attention of their parents and do not have time to bother each other. However, the same structure — adults and children — had the family where I grew up. My sister and I had our own world and interests.

Single children have no worse social skills than children growing up with brothers and sisters.

But is it possible to learn to establish and maintain close relationships with other people, if it was not possible to train on brothers and sisters? Researchers say yes.

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В Research 13 500 children from 7 to 12 class were asked to name 10 best friends. In these lists, the only children in the family met no less than others.

Psychologist Lori Kramer explains this by the fact that children learn to establish and maintain relationships in the garden, school or on the playground. After all, a brother or sister will not disappear anywhere, and friends can turn their backs on you. Kramer says that the main indicator of how an older brother or sister treats a younger one is the quality of their relationship with their best friend.

Relations with brothers and sisters instill not only positive communication skills, but also negative ones, which will then be difficult to get rid of. In addition, bullying by a brother or sister can cause long-term psychological trauma.

However, there are certain indicators that indicate that only children are less tolerant, less able to cooperate and perceive the point of view of another. Came to this conclusion scientists in China, where two generations of only children have already grown.

Only children smarter

Researchers Tony Falby and Denise Flying, having analyzed 115 families and children in the USA and Canada between 1925 and 1988 years have found that only children are better at school and more confident.

Another study, published in 2004, found that teens who grew up without siblings were more successful at school and less likely to drink alcohol. But a little higher intelligence and ambition characterize older children in the family.

Psychologists attribute this to the fact that parents pay more attention to them, and the children themselves spend more time and communicate with adults, which stimulates their development. My 11-year-old son enjoys watching lectures on scientific topics (TED talks), documentaries with me and loves to participate in conversations with adults.

However, Falby draws attention to the fact that the intellectual benefits of single children are noticeable in babies, but they decrease with age.

The only children are more creative.

Same chinese research, according to which - only children are less tolerant, revealed: they are more creative. For example, adults who grew up without siblings were able to offer more ways to use ordinary objects and invent original solutions to hypothetical problems.

Scientists draw their conclusions reinforced brain scan data: in the only children in the family, the brain regions associated with the flexibility of thinking, imagination and planning differ from similar brain regions of other children.

Researchers attribute this to long hours of play alone.

“I was not surprised that Chinese researchers found that the brain of loners is different from the brain of other children. But the question remains how much this difference is tangible in adulthood, ”Faldo commented on this study, noting that she would like to see more such studies.

However, children who do not have brothers and sisters, having matured, often regret it. As a result, almost all researchers agreed: the number of children in a family is only one of many factors that determines how successful and happy a person will be. The nature and education of the parents are more important, how much time and resources they invest in the child, genetic factors and the environment in which he grows.

The original column is published on the website. Ukrainian Service “Голоса America".

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