The Large Family is Pathological, Part 1/2
Large Families Were Once Commonplace ...
The Trend Towards Large Families Decreased With the Advent of Better Birth Control
The Feminist Movement Created GREATER Opportunties For Women Thus Spiralling The Large Family Into Gradual Demise
The Rise of the Small Family & Its Myriad Benefits
The Large Family-NOT What It's Cracked Up To Be
Children in Large Families AREN'T Seen as Individuals But as a GROUP
In Large Families, There are HIGHER Stress Levels & Incidences of Child Abuse
Large Families and Low Academic Achievement
In Large Families, There is MORE Likelihood of Juvenile Delinquency
Parents', Particularly Mothers' Educational Levels In Relation to Large Families
Poverty and Large Families
Why the Large Family Is Aberrant, Barbaric, Neolithic, and Foolish
I. THE TREND OF LARGE FAMILIES IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY AND HOW THE ADVENT OF BIRTH CONTROL AND FEMINIST MOVEMENT REVERSED THAT TREND
In the early part of the 20th century, the large family [6 or more children per household] was revered by society. Parents were praised for having large families. Psychologists, social scientists, and sociologists heaped emulations on parents on how beautiful and altruistic they were bringing so many children into this world. The motto was the bigger, the better and there was always room for one more.
However, the societal trend advocating large families was reversing. In the 1960s, the birth control pill came on the market. With the invention of the pill and other more advanced contraceptive methods, families started to become smaller. In addition to the advances of better contraception methods, there was the feminist movement which broadened and liberalized women's roles beyond that of housewife and mother.
Many women embraced the feminist movement as it allowed them freedoms and opportunities unheard of before. In addition to the advancements of birth control technology, abortion was legalized, resulting in greater reproductive choices for women. Women no longer had to endured unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. They had children who were planned and wanted. Finally, women were in charge in of reproductive freedom.
II. THE RISE OF THE SMALL FAMILY AND WHY IT WAS DEEMED MORE BENEFICIAL TO THE FAMILY UNIT
The increases in contraceptive technology resulted in small families. With the increase in the percentage of small families, psychologists, social scientists, and sociologists were studying and seeing the myriad advantages of the small family socioeconomically and psychologically. It was found that in small families, more economic resources are allocated per child. Small families lived better and did not have to struggle as much financially. There were also more allocation of parental time per child which resulted in children receiving more individualized attention. Children in small families are high academic achievers because their parents had more time to interact with them and also there is more money for books and other educational paraphernalia in the home.
As there were more money allocated per child in the small family household, such children were more exposed to cultural and intellectual things as a result of there being more money in the household. This economic factor explains why they also received better and consistent health care, and were more likely to pursue college and postgraduate education. Not only children benefited from small family life, women immensely benefited. In small families, women were freed to accomplish their career goals. Studies showed that couples who have small families are less stressed, happier, and have more fulfilling sexual lives than couples who have large families. Dr. Alex Comfort, sex educator, stated that couples who have small families have more conducive sexual lives as they are more privacy and less interruptions.
III. THE GRADUAL DECREASE OF LARGE FAMILIES AND LARGE FAMILIES WERE BEGINNING TO BE SEE IN A QUITE DIFFERENT LIGHT.............AND IT WASN'T PRETTY
As there was an increase in the percentage of small families, there was beginning to be a gradual decrease in the amount of large families. Psychologists, social scientists, and sociologists were beginning to see the liabilities of the large family. Contrary to the stereotype and myth that children from large families are more likely to interface well with people, it was quite the opposite. It has been authenticated that children from large families tend to be highly territorial of their space and fiercely competitive with others as a result of being constantly forced to share their possessions and their space. Ellen Peck,former educator and author of the book, THE JOYS OF THE ONLY CHILD, reported that contrary to myth, children from large families because they grew up with very little, when they saw toys, they hoarded them. She further remarked that they are not generous and sharing with other children at all as has been supposed.
Studies further authenticated that the larger the family, the higher incidences of increased sibling rivalry as there are more children vying for parental attention. Also in large families, there is a greater percentage of sibling abuse and bullying. In addition to those components, there is marked favoritism and greater incidences of parental neglect in large families.
In large families, it is the youngest or next to the youngest who often receive the most parental attention. They also have no familial responsibilities. They are also pampered and spoilt by the parents. One noted actor reported that as the youngest of 16 children, he was known the brat. He indicated that he was very indulged by his parents and older siblings. He reported to never having to do anything at all.
Middle children, for the most part, are either ignored or consigned in care-taking duties for their younger siblings. They also have to learn to navigate the environment and for the most part, raise and teach themselves.They learn quickly to either swim or sink. One renowned singer stated that as the middle child of 8, she was consistently ignored by her parents. She reported that the only way to get parental attention was to act out and become more aggressive. She further reported that the ways she acted out to get attention were not always positive. Another actor, the middle child of 7, indicated that she was always ignored by her parents. She maintained that she parented herself.
All in all, it is the oldest children who assume the brunt and/or onus of the familial responsibilities. They are THE TRUE parents of the family. They are the ones who spend their formative childhood and adolescent years raising their younger siblings, not having a normative childhood and adolescence. Oldest daughters in large families are the ones who are pressurized into becoming parents to their younger siblings.
In a magazine article, a woman, oldest of 7 children reported, that at eight years of age, she was the actual parent to her younger siblings. She stated that she changed diapers and fed her younger siblings. In 2004, two parents of 10 were reported and cited for inhumane treatment for forcing their oldest children to parent her younger siblings. In the Duggar family, the older daughters, the parents, parent their younger siblings.
Dr. James Herbert Siward Bossard, sociologist and author of THE LARGE FAMILY SYSTEM: AN ORIGINAL STUDY IN THE SOCIOLOGY OF FAMILY BEHAVIOR, did research on families where there were six of more children per household. Dr. Bossard confirmed that in large families, oldest children are routinely forced to assume parenting and care-taking responsibilities for their younger siblings. There is a phenomena which describes the oldest child in the large family-the parentified child.
The overwhelming majority of oldest children in large families are parentied children. They do the real parenting job of raising children that are not their own. One actor, the oldest of 10 children, reported to always having a child with her whenever she went someplace. She indicated that she had to take younger siblings with her,even on social gatherings. She indicated that she never had time to herself. In large families, oldest children are on call to their parents and siblings 24/7/365.
IV. CHILDREN IN LARGE FAMILY AREN'T VIEWED AS INDIVIDUALS
Children raised in large families have little sense of individuality. They are routinely inculcated by their parents that they are part of group. They are told that they uniqueness is of no consequence and nothing. They are not taught to have a high regard for themselves. They are told that self-love and self-esteem is wrong and selfish. Studies have endlessly attested that children from large families have little or no self-esteem, believing themselves to be insignificant. They are constantly reminded by their parents to always put themselves last.
The average child from a large family has little or no sense of individualization and self-worth. The concept of individualization and self-wroth are total anathemas in the large family environment. Such things are considered to be totally abhorrent in the large family environment. In the large family, the concept of self is considered selfish. Children in large families are taught never to think of their own goals, wishes, and needs. What is normal self-assertion by children is totally frowned upon in the large families. Children in large families are thoroughly instructed to always put other people's concern and needs before their own. They are constantly told that they themselves do not matter.
Many children in large families report that their parents never paid any individualized attention to them at all. Parents of large families are of the school that to give their children individualized attention is spoiling them. They believe that the less attention paid to children, the better. They contend that children do better with less parental attention. One actor, the youngest of 6 children, recalled his mother saying that benign neglect is good for children.
Some children react to this lack of individualized attention by becoming anonymous, going even further in the background. Others become loud, pushy, and brash in order to seek individualized parental attention. A father of 9 reported that he is clearly unable to give all his children the individualized attention they need. The abovementioned renowned singer, one of 8 children, reported in a biography and interviewed that she had to adopt aggressive and brashy behavior in order to even the slightest attention from her parents and not to be overshadowed by her siblings. She further maintained that by adopting this aggressive behavior, her parents started to pay individualized attention to her.
Many children from large families are attracted to gangs because they do not receive the individualized parental attention that they need. To them, being in a gang represents a sense of family and belonging. They also receive the attention they do not receive in their immediate families. That is the main reason so many children from large families run away from home as there is lack of individualized attention in the home. In a 1970 Reader's Digest article, one woman, the oldest of 6 children, reported running away from home because her parents paid little or no attention to her.
V. HIGHER STRESS LEVELS AND HIGHER INCIDENCES OF CHILD ABUSE IN THE LARGE FAMILY ENVIRONMENT
There is a direct correlation between stress levels and family size. There is a correlation between the rise of the stress levels and family size. The larger the family, the more stress. Stress levels in large families are high for myriad reasons. Many times, parents find the raising of a large number of children to be quite taxing and daunting. They can be overwhelmed with the day to day events surrounding child-rearing. They have more children than they can effect exercise a span of control over. Many parents find that raising a large family is extremely stressful both physically, emotionally, mentally, and psychologically.
As a consequence of this, there is a greater likelihood that there is going to be child abuse and the implementation of regular corporal punishment in the large family household. In large families, children are routinely disciplined by the use of corporal punishment. A study done by The Study of National Incidence & Prevalence of Child Abuse confirmed that in families where there are 4 or more children, it is twice as likely for children to suffer physical and/or emotional abuse than it in 1 and 2- child families. The study further authenticated that in large families, parents are more likely to neglect their children than in small families because economic, emotional, and/or psychological resources are stretched thin.
There was a news story that Gary Staton, father of 10, abandoned his children because parenting them was too daunting a task. Sociological studies show that in large families, the parents are not as caring, protective, nor as nurturing of their children as their counterparts in small families. Parents of large families oftentimes have children without thinking about the ramifications of having a lot of children have upon the children they already have and the family structure. As a result of their parents' unthinking and irresponsible behavior, children growing up in large families often have a very low quality of life in terms of emotional and psychological time spent with their parents.
Three of the 9 Jackson siblings reported how it was commonplace to receive corporal punishment. Another celebrated person, one of 13 children, concurred that his father would regularly beat and his siblings until they bled. As a result of the lack of parental nurturing and regular use of corporal punishment in the large family environment, people from large families, on average, are less loving, involved, and nurturing parents. They are also harsher and more distant parents. People from large families favor the use of corporal punishment than parents from small families who are more likely to talk to their children as a form of discipline.
VI. LOW ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IN LARGE FAMILIES
Psychologists have repeatedly substantiated that the intellectual environment decreases with each additional sibling born into the family. Dr. R. B. Zajonc, a social psychologist, in a 2001 study cited that the larger the family is, the less mature the intellectual environment is. A study showed that oldest children from large families scored lower on IQ tests and performed significiantly power on performance tests than their counterparts from small families. Other social researchers indicate that as families become large, school achievement dropped significantly. This is because parents of large families have less time and economic resources allotted per child. There is more dilution of economic resources for educational and intellectual activities as families become larger.
Another factor in the low academic performance and achievement in children from large families is lack of parental attention and involvement. Parents of large families do not have the time to spend individually with each other, especially assisting and/or helping them with their homework. Children in large families have to teach themselves and/or each others as their parents are not around to do for them. In the large family, children are on their own very early in life. They have to swim if they want to thrive or simply sink, letting their environment overcome them. Many parents of large families admit that in their homes, there are no books, computers, and/or other forms of intellectual stimulation as there is barely enough money allocated for the rudiments of food, clothing, and shelter.
A third factor in the low academic and/or intellectual achievement in children from large families is not it is not valued. Average parents of large families do not take their children to cultural and intellectual activities. Because parents of large families are concerned with providing only the bare rudiments as far as their children go, books, computers, and/or intellectual paraphernalia are viewed as unnecessary. Studies have shown that when there are no books and/or other forms of mental stimulation in the home, children are more likely to be low academic achievers.
VII. CORRELATION BETWEEN LARGE FAMILIES AND DELINQUENT BEHAVIOR
There is a relationship between large families and delinquency. The larger the family, the higher probability that a child or children within that large family will become juvenile delinquents. A study by Lipsey and Derzon (1998) has shown that in large families, there is little or no parental supervision hence the children are left on their own. When children are unsupervised, they are more likely to indulge in delinquent behavior.
Another factor in children from large families being more predisposed to delinquent behavior is that they are found to be lacking in educational success which translates to a lower IQ. It has been authenticated that the lower the child's IQ, the more likely that he/she will become a delinquent. A noted actor/producer who was the youngest of 9 children admitted that as a teenager, he indulged in delinquent actitivty as a result of parental neglect. He relayed that he would roam the streets at night, indulging in various illegal activities. He indicated that he served some time in juvenile detention. He added that many of his older siblings were also involved in delinquent activities for the aforementioned reasons.
Girls from large families are more likely to engage in negative attention seeking behavior including promiscuity. Oftentimes such behaviors lead to dire consequences, counting pregnancy. This is the result of lack of parental attention and involvement in their lives. Furthermore, in large families, daughters see their mothers pregnant most of the time and follow that example, knowing no other choice. Because of a lack of parental attention and love, many girls from large families get into oftentimes negative relationships with the first boy who shows them any type of attention. Many oldest daughters from large families, because they are forced to become surrogate parents, get involved in relationships just to get away from their environment.
VIII. EDUCATIONAL LEVEL OF PARENTS, ESPECIALLY MOTHERS, AND LARGE FAMILIES
Studies have confirmed that the lower the educational level, the larger the family. According to a study by Alley House, women who do not complete high school tend to have large families. People who have lower education levels do not understand the importance of effective family planning. People with lower educational levels oftentimes do not have access to effective health care because they do not know that such health care exists.
Less educated people tend to be more traditional in their mindset. They also tend to be more religious. Because of these components, many parents of large families tend to be virulent anti-contraception, eschewing all forms of birth control. Furthermore, combined with lower levels of education and religious beliefs, they adopt a more passive view of parenting, refusing to take personal responsibility regarding family planning. They also believe that to be proactive regarding family planning is unnatural and not preordained. They are of the school to let God decide the number of children that they have.
IX. LARGE FAMILIES AND POVERTY
Typical large families are in the lower socioeconomic classes. They are either poor or impoverished. The larger the family, the more dilution of economic resources. In a NEW YORK TIMES article discussing large families, a father of a very large family indicated that he could not afford to take his anyplace as it was too expenseive. Many large families purchase things at Goodwill and other secondhand stores and eat less nutritious, lower quality foods. Children from large families seldom eat meat, chicken, and/or fish as such food products are too expensive for the large family.
A mother of a famous comedian, the latter who is one of 7 seven, related that they seldom had money for nutritious food and had to cosume sugar sandwiches with soup. In an NBC Dateline segment 18 years ago, a father of 14 children inquired to the news reporter as to how he was going to feed his children. He stated that he could not afford to purchase meat and other nutritious food. One of the nutritionists interviewed, suggested that they eat cheaper quality foods so they ate millet, and discarded frutis, breads, and vegetables. Statistics have authenticated that poorer people tend to have more children than middle, upper middle, and upper class people. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation stated that the overwhelming majority of poor families consisted of families with 5 or more children.
Large families are more likely to receive more outside aid as parents are unable to adequately support their children. Relatives and other relief agencies usually assist large families either by donating clothes and other forms of economic support. I know a wealthy woman who supports her sister and brother-in-law who have 12 children by donating clothes and sending 6 out of the 12 children to expensive private schools.
One woman, who is one of 11 children, stated that as a child, all their clothing came from donations. My mother and her 9 siblings also depended upon donations from a wealthier maternal aunt for even the most basic and rudimentary of items. Large families, on average, are not very self-sufficient and they must have hand outs to help them break even socioeconomically. To this day, most of my maternal aunts and uncles look to wealthier relatives and friends to help them live better. As a result of being raised in poverty, many children from large families adopt a poverty or scarcity mindset, believing that constant economic struggle is a normal lifestyle.
More regarding the pathology of the large family will be addressed in the second and concluding part of this hub.
Books on the Subject
© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams
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