The Benefits of a Large Family

By Mackenzie M.

How many brothers and sisters do you have? In most cases you would answer with one or two; maybe you would answer with none at all. It seems that in recent decades, the trend of having large families has declined significantly. In Canada, the average family will have between one and two children while the average family world-wide will have between two and three children.

I remember hearing from my grandmother about living on a farm years and years ago with her brothers and sisters. The way she talked about their interactions and way of life was really quite astounding. Everyone in her family had a job to do from fieldwork to milking cows. The farm staff was made up almost entirely of her brothers, sisters, and parents. The family unit was much closer and was used as a much greater resource than it seems to be used in the present. Issues were dealt with within the family and youth development entailed a team effort rather than an individual one. My grandmother and her siblings grew up looking out for one another, being role models, and developing important personality characteristics that helped shape them into functioning persons in society.

That type of family wasn’t extremely rare back in those days but it’s even harder to come across such a large family today. I have the privilege of knowing a large family who agreed to let me talk about them in this post. Elouise and Jason Kitchen have had six children, and the seventh is on the way, over the past ten years. So far, the couple has four daughters and two sons. Knowing the family for a while, I can attest to the positive benefits and few negatives that can come from having such a large number of children.

Working with youth through youth programs I’ve seen several families with children that might have a problematic condition. There’s the case of a child who is demanding and self-centered as the result of being an only child; a child may be sheltered from an overprotective parent; or some children seem to have so much energy and such a small attention span that getting anything done productively is practically impossible.

I asked Elouise what some of the best things about having that many children are; she said, “The best thing is everyone naturally learns to be a leader and to help one another.” It seems once there are enough children in a family, they start to act as a society within the group. Each sibling is like a police officer in the group so when one child does something wrong, the other kids can pick up on it pretty quick and turn a negative moment into a positive learning experience. There’s much more emphasis on “team” within the family unit. I also asked Elouise about bad points; she said “All the laundry and cleaning up were quite exhausting” but she knows that as her children grow up “they will be able to help with the work.”

Of course, rearing lots and lots of children isn’t for everyone but there are some definite positive benefits to large families through means of resources, role modelling, and the focus on a team environment.

Further Reading:

The Telegraph Journal- “Why having big families is good for you”

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6 Responses to The Benefits of a Large Family

  1. Pingback: Motherhood | DIE TRYING

  2. JosiahM says:

    I am the oldest of four kids. This isn’t a huge family by any means, but by today’s standards it is above average. I agree with Mackenzie, having a large family fosters natural positive development. It forces you to socialize with your siblings because you are around them so much. At times quite a bit of negotiating and problem solving go into interacting with siblings as well. The bigger the family the more opportunity there is for competition. Each sibling wants to learn from the other with the potential of outdoing each other one day. Being a big family involves a lot of teamwork, it’s hard to operate alone in a family with more that one or two siblings, you learn to work together, which is important for life as a whole. In the ‘real world’ people work together, if you grew up doing that everyday with your siblings, whether playing together, doing homework or making meals, then it will translate well to the rest of life.
    Josiah M.

  3. shupealyssa says:

    Coming from a family of five siblings, this article was very intriguing and interesting. When we walked into a restaurant, the mall, or the ball field all heads turned and someone was bound to comment asking my parents, are they all yours? Or you got your hands full! My parents and grandparents come from large families, based on today’s standards, above average. More specifically, my father came from a family of seven, my mother from a family of three, and my grandparents fourteen and six. Needless to say, it runs in the family.

    Being the oldest of five, I have had the privilege of watching my siblings evolve into who they are today. Growing up, there was great emphasis on a team environment and positive role modelling. We learned from one another, cheered for one another, encouraged one another, helped one another, fought one another, and most importantly were there for one another no matter what. I also feel the need to set an example in portraying a positive role model for my brothers and sisters as the eldest. Whether it is helping my parents, maintaining good grades, excelling in sport, or staying out of trouble, it is my role as the leader of the pack.

    Although we are growing up, there is still a huge emphasis on “team” within the family unit. My parents stress the importance of sharing, forgiveness, friendship, and team. As a team we feed off one another’s mistakes and make it into a positive learning experience. I believe large families have more advantages than disadvantages and more positives than negatives. I also believe coming from a large family will promote appreciation of what you have and not always getting what you want. In today’s society, there seems to be an emphasis on “me, me, me”, not appreciating or accepting what you have.

    Great article!

    Alyssa S

  4. This article really touched home for me. Like Mackenzie, my grandparents were continually telling us grandkids stories from their childhood. It seemed like a much simpler time, one that was peaceful and filled with strong family values. I had the privilege of growing up in a home that had all those aspects. The person I have become today is correlated to the family that brought me up. Even though I had all I needed as a child, I still couldn’t help but listen to my grandparents experiences wishing I could have grown up in their era.
    Something that all grandparents stories have in common, is that their large family was always involved. Almost forming a small community, the children never needed to be placed in programs or activities to keep occupied. There were enough siblings to account for an entire sports team, giving them the opportunity for continual play time. It has been said that being a child in a large family you can get lost in the shuffle, or have to withstand second hand toys and clothes your entire childhood. Although this may be true in some cases, the benefits outweigh the negatives. Continually having a large support group cannot be in anyway a negative, and having siblings to guide you and teach you leadership skills along with communication and cooperation skills can foster the development of any child. Growing up in a large family can be a very similar experience to participating in any sports or recreation program, except this type of team will always be there for you, right till the end.


  5. philippejpd says:

    Great article Mackenzie, I am very interested in this topic for many reasons. A personal reason being that I have always wanted to myself have a big family but there is always the thought of maybe it will be too hard to handle and give me too much to do in the new society we now live in. But while reading this article it was able to remind me the reason having a big family is beneficial. I grew up with only one sister, but both of my parents each grew up with 6 siblings, which allows me to have plenty of aunts and uncles in my family. Being older allows my uncles and aunts to give me stories of their childhood and memories they have of living with such a big family in their household. Not all stories are quite the same but you can see the similarities on how a group of kids grow up together and learn a lot of skills that are necessary in the later years.
    Thank you for giving me the feeling of wanting a big family again, I believe in growing up surrounded by a big family can only benefit every child in the family in the future.


  6. nickboudreau1 says:

    From my experience you can’t talk about sports and not mention family at the same time. I’m the middle child of 4 (3 sisters) and the age gap is pretty wide between the 4 of us. Sports was always something that we had in common and was one of the only things we could bond over because we’re constantly at different life stages. The same could probably be said for people in big families. Everyone is so busy all the time that maybe the only time you spend together is watching other family members participate in their sport or when the family gets together for a backyard football game. Sports can be the one constant within big families who are always on the go.
    Nick B.

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