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Large age gaps- good or bad?

Updated on February 13, 2015
My son and daughter
My son and daughter

What I think

When my 14 year old stepson was young, he received almost constant attention from us. He was an only child when he was with us (he lived mostly with his mother) until he was eleven. It was hard for him when we first told him I was having a baby, because he thought that we would be taken away from him. Once we explained and talked to him he was soon excited. Since the day she was born, he has cherished her.

Now I am obsessing over how the large age gap will affect them. I think he'll be fine, but my daughter is so young and impressionable. The constant rivalry drives me crazy, and I started to wonder how different it would be if they were close to the same age or if they were both girls. As I tried to research this, all I found were more questions and a couple of scientific experiments. Well, to answer half the questions: it's definitely not a good idea to space kids ten years apart! I would say that even five years apart is pushing it. I have discovered many good things about the age difference, but still believe that it is best to have children close to the same age. I have heard that a 4 year age gap works great.

The good things

I found a few facts from, but it is hard to find anything concrete. I've decided that there is so many variables like if their boys or girls, that it is almost impossible to come up with one answer My real questions: How will my stepsons aggression affect my daughter? Will she have problems with fighting because of this? These answers I am still searching for.

I can give you facts that I do know about. For instance, it really does make it easier to do things like take a shower or take a short nap, a twelve year old could be capable of babysitting, but I didn't let my stepson do this until he was 13. You just have to understand that your pre-teen is doing you a favor and you don't want to abuse that power. I also know that teens are great at playing with small children. My daughter can be kept busy for at least an hour when my son wants to play a game with her. The only problem with this is that the teenager will play when they want to play, he also refuses to play dress-up and her imaginary princess games. I have read that although there is more aggression with the younger siblings, there is reduced aggression in the older ones. I haven't really discovered this yet, but maybe my son would have had more aggressive behavior if my daughter wasn't born.

The Bad Things

In one article I read, an experiment was done. One study showed that sibling rivalry is almost non-existent between siblings with a large age gap. I decided to ignore this whole article, as I know from experience that there is just as much, maybe even more, of sibling rivalry between them. Like I stated before, there are a lot of variables, so maybe it is just with my kids, but all the same problems with kids about same age arise with my kids. There is still a lot of jealousy, in a way there is more. Three year olds are very demanding of attention, and parents still need to listen to adolescents. They both need this attention is different ways. Young teens have a hard time understanding how much work is involved with a toddler, and they still feel threatened, believing that the young child is #1 in their parents life. In contrast, my little girl gets angry when her brother so much as taps one of her toys. This can be difficult because even though she needs to learn to share, my son doesn't need to play with her toys, he's too old for them. He aggravates things because he knows it bothers her, and continues to do things intentionally to upset her (this is normal adolescent behaviour). I don't think that someone closer to my daughter's age would normally do that to her.

In one informative article (check out link), I read about how the aggression in older siblings can affect their young sibling. It did answer one of my questions. It stated exactly what I feared it would. If my stepson continues with his hateful behaviour, it will rub off on my sweet, lovable daughter. Granted, this is only one article. There really didn't seem to be much proof of this. I can continue to hope, and to research this. I think that as long as he doesn't get too aggressive (like hitting her), she should be okay.


It has been four years since writing this. My daughter is seven and my son is eighteen. There is a light in the tunnel! After struggling for a few years, we have one child again! This means we can really give her everything and all our love. It was definitely more of a challenge with the teenager than with my little one. It frustrated me because I wanted to give my daughter more attention but it was obvious who really needed it.

At least she has not suffered because of his hardships. My fear of my daughter becoming aggressive is gone because she is considered one of the most kind and caring kids in her class. I know this is because I continued to shower her with all the love I could; love is the best medicine and now I know from experience.

Like I said, it wasn't easy. When I wrote this things were just starting to get tough. I was just starting to see what a challenge taking care of these two kids would be. My son came in swearing every other word while my daughter was present. He brought drugs and alcohol into the house, he snuck in girls overnight. We had police here quite a few times, usually because he would just take off for days.

So, if you decide to have a child later in life when your other child is almost grown...things might be a little different in your household, but not necessarily bad. The complications that I had might not be anything you have to worry about and there are quite a few benefits to having an older responsible child.


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    • erinb62 profile image

      Erin Buttermore 5 years ago from Laconia

      Thank you for words of wisdom. I really enjoyed reading about your family and it makes me feel a little more positive about this subject.

    • Alayne Fenasci profile image

      Alayne Fenasci 5 years ago from Louisiana

      My stepson and daughter are 6 years apart. He has lived with us for the past year and will be with us permanently. He is currently 8 and she is 2. My daughter is one of the sweetest, gentlest spirits I have ever met. My stepson is not. There have been many aspects of his behavior that have needed attention since he came to live with us. We made our first behavioral priority the way he treats his little sister and how he acts in front of her. It has improved a great deal since it has been the focal point of much of our effort. We recognize he is going to have behavior issues, but the best thing would be for those issues to not harm an innocent toddler who only wants to idolize him.

      We try our best to make sure that all other influences in our daughter's life are kind, gentle, and good. That way, she knows the difference between what her world is made of, and what her brother brings into the home with his attitude.

      I recognize there's a big difference between an 8 year old and a 13 or 14 year old and the influences each agegroup is going to bring into the home. Also, the demeanor of the individual child makes a huge difference. My daughter actually giggles at her brother when he tries to be harsh with her sometimes. "Mean" just doesn't register on her radar a lot of the time. That of course makes him mad, but at least it usually shuts him up.

      On the subject of the toys, we make her share her toys with him just as if he was another small child who wanted to play with her. She needs to understand how to share. He loses interest in the toys pretty quickly if he's allowed to pick them up. We also allow her to pick up a toy he has left out as long as she cannot break it. He has to share with her that way too. If he doesn't want to share something, he should keep it put away.

      My other stepson does not live with us, and sadly we see him only rarely now. He is 13, but is also a very gentle person. He accused my husband of burping the baby too hard when she was first born.

    • Courtney L J profile image

      Courtney L J 6 years ago

      Interesting post and I must say I think big age gaps are good things for both children!