Wednesday, 23 March 2011

When Pound Affects Preference: The Rise of One-Child Households in the UK

At what point would finances dampen your desire to have a second child?

According to the Office for National Statistics, over 25% of British children are only-children and this figure has been steadily increasing over the last several decades. The US Only Child website tells a similar story in the USA.

According to Margaret Driscoll’s ‘O Brother, Where art though,’ in The Sunday Times Magazine , “as the tectonic plates of finances and work bump up against the desire for a comfortable lifestyle, something has to give and that something is often the desire for a second child.”

Driscoll’s report alleges that for many middle class parents, a second child would mean surrendering “the so-called good things in life” (foreign holidays, flat-screen TVs) as well as opportunity in itself for their children (not being able to afford to privately educate two kids). (Her examples, not mine). She also asks, in collaboration with white father of 6, middle class researcher Jeff Brazier if British only-children are increasingly cosseted and indulged by helicopter parents.

It's all relative. I would like to have a second child – the desire is there. I would consider our finances before trying to get pregnant again, but mainly to weigh up our ability to adequately provide the basics for a family of four, to afford child care and also transatlantic travel (a forever feature of our lives). But if in our hearts, Chris and I wanted another, I can’t imagine us not going for it for fear of not providing enough for LLC or further reducing our disposable income.   But we don't plan to privately educate LLC and we might not have the newest clothes or flashiest electronic gadgets while we are growing our family.  That's why I guess it depends on where we are all prepared to make sacrifices, though the statistics indicate that for many the cut falls in the baby department.  Where do you stand?

And do one child families breed helicopter parents (hovering over their "fragile" children's every move) and risk aversion.  Probably to some extent by virtue of only children being the central object of their parent's affection, but we can't overlook that parenting approaches are the key issue here, whether a parent has one child or eight. I fear helicopter parenting is becoming more of a generational tactic both in the UK and US, and one which parents at large should sit back and try to put the breaks on, and fast.  Kids need support but also must learn independence and how to advocate for themselves and that trend sadly seems to be declining. 
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