5 Ways Growing Up In A Big Family Benefits The Kids

Big families sound messy and expensive and chaotic… but it turns out growing up in a big family is actually wonderful for kids.

By Keelia Clarkson3 min read
shutterstock 1275958312 (1) (1)

Any mention of a big family immediately makes us think of Cheaper by the Dozen — we see Steve Martin’s overworked face, playing the father of twelve kids. We imagine the mountain of dishes that would accumulate after a single meal. We imagine the messes and conflicting desires and chaos of growing up in a house with so many kids.

Most of us didn’t grow up in such a big household. In 2020, there was an average of 1.93 children under 18 per family in the U.S., down from 2.33 children in 1960. It’s no secret that a growing number of Millennials are choosing not to have kids at all. Now, we’re also seeing that the people having kids are having fewer of them.

Along with a culture that’s less interested in kids, there have always been countless negative stereotypes that every large family faces. Weird looks are the norm, assumptions about religion or beliefs are made, invasive questions about financial means are bound to come about, comments about overpopulation are doled out.

But here’s the thing: for all the craziness that comes along with growing up in a family with more children than average, there are actually significant benefits to be reaped. Here are five ways that big families are beneficial in the long run. 

They’ll Be Less Likely To Divorce

It isn’t groundbreaking to say that divorce is relatively common in the United States. While the likelihood of getting divorced does go down as we get older, the divorce rates for adults over 50 have actually doubled since 1990, and for those over 65, have tripled. So it’s safe to say that divorce is a pressing issue for many adults and couples.

But interestingly enough, studies have found that growing up with multiple siblings actually decreases our chances of getting divorced one day, with one study finding that with each additional sibling, the chances of someone getting divorced dropped 2%. This isn’t surprising, though, because by growing up with multiple siblings, we’re taught how to function with other personalities, be aware of another person’s desires and needs, and work to compromise, negotiate, and favor harmony.   

It Teaches Kids Better Social Skills

It’s easy to assume that kids will learn whatever they need to about social skills in school, surrounded by their peers and participating in group activities. But if we’re honest, kids aren’t learning as many important social skills at school as they are at home.

Growing up in a family with more than one sibling helps kids learn how to interact well with other personalities, handle not being the center of attention, and share toys and belongings, among other things. This isn’t to say that all only-children are selfish, but it means that kids who grew up with siblings at home were learning these skills 24/7 rather than only at school.

This leads to adults who are able to work well with a variety of personalities, situations, and temperaments not only in the workplace, but on their own journey of parenthood, as they raise their own children who will likely be different from them.

It’s Helpful for Elderly Parents

We often think of the challenges for parents that come with raising multiple littles at once (and there are many, to be clear), painting a picture in our mind of sticky jam-hands everywhere, over-exhausted parents, and disorder as far as the eye can see. But we often forget to imagine what a big family with grown children looks like for the parents.

As we’re growing up, so are our parents. Before we know it, they’ve got gray hair and far more wrinkles than we remembered; they’re more fragile and forgetful; they’re getting older – and they’ll need someone to take care of them. For a single child, this is a huge source of stress. Being the only caretaker can easily take over our life and leave us feeling like there’s no one to lean on, now that our parents are leaning on us.

Having multiple kids to spread out the task of caretaking means that, ideally, every kid is more able to offer their elderly parents valuable help willingly rather than feeling forced into doing it all themselves. A group of siblings will be able to share these responsibilities and assign tasks based on personality, ability, and availability.

Housework Is Introduced Early

The reality of having so many people in one household is that things will get dirty and cluttered so much faster. The sink will fill up multiple times a day, the laundry will be overflowing before we know it, and bathrooms will get grimy almost immediately.

Yes, that’s stressful. It also means that parents can introduce housework and chores to their children easily, because the housework is constant and relentless. Having all hands on deck in a big family is necessary, so they’ll learn early on, not just about housework, but about responsibility and contributing to the family – meaning they’ll one day become adults who are able to keep a clean home.

The Kids Have Built-In Friends

We’ve all seen those big families that are so tight-knit that they spend every weekend together; the kids’ kids always have an aunt’s or uncle’s house to go to, where they’ll hang out with their cousins; the grandparents constantly brag on their growing family; the siblings lean on each other for support and consider each other their best friends.

Yes, I imagined the TV show Parenthood as I typed that. While not every large family has this dynamic, having a big family certainly opens up the opportunity for built-in lifelong friendships with a group of people who’ve known us our entire life – and there are few relationships so significant and stable as that. 

Closing Thoughts

The decision to have children (and how many) isn’t always simple. But we shouldn’t let fear or negative stereotypes keep us from choosing to raise a big family and embrace all the beauty and benefits that come with it.

Love Evie? Let us know what you love and what else you want to see from us in the official Evie reader survey.