The Science of Siblings

The Science of Siblings

“Why do we have to do so many jobs?” asked our dearest daughter.

“Because we don’t live like Bear Grylls in the Andes,” came my curt reply.

“We have rooms to clean, plates to wash up, laundry to hang…”

“And, because you aren’t the only child in this house.” I added.

This has been a growing revelation to me, as with each extra child it has got harder and harder to keep up with all the feeding and washing they seem to require. However, better late than never. We have cottoned on to the fact that they can help. Lots.

I grew up an only child. I didn’t need to cook or clean up and, I assure you, I didn’t.  Of course, there’s no reason for the parents of an only child to do everything for them, except that it is so often quicker and easier to. If you want a job done properly, do it yourself goes the maxim, and it is highly applicable in many home-based scenarios involving small children.

Our small son can sweep the hall floor, yet will it be any cleaner afterwards? It’s doubtful. But he will get that beautiful opportunity to prove another maxim: practice makes perfect. Or, as they say encouragingly over the pond, practice makes progress.

In an interesting and relatively new field of study, the science of siblings, this is proving to be one of the main factors for starting, and stopping, your family at one child. The addition of siblings might curtail their access to such a stellar range of experiences and hobbies due to financial, transport and time constraints. They might they have to help a lot around the home, and they might not be able to get their parents’ attention all day:

However, less can be more. I would ask … if my children are learning important social skills because I am not hanging on their every word. Might they have a firmer grasp of gratification deferment as a result? Will they learn the important life-lesson that not everybody wants to know what they think on any given subject?

These questions and many more are posed by Colin Brazier in Sticking Up For Siblings, a fabulous little book exploring in some detail this mysterious sibling science. It’s passionately penned by Brazier, Sky News Reporter and father of 6, who has spent hundreds of hours reading through dozens of research papers and articles to discover why so many parents are unwilling to expand their families beyond that first child. (Not to be confused with those parents who find themselves unable to have more kids.) You can also download it from Civitas for free.

Growing up as an only child, but in adulthood drawn to have a large family, I have often puzzled over what motivates us to have children. I most definitely started out wanting children like you’d want a nice handbag, or a flashy car. But, rapidly disillusioned, I found that children were far more life-enhancing than a bag or car could ever be, and that I am squarely in the camp of Lady Longford (late historian and mother-of-eight) who declared, ‘I just wanted to see how the next one turned out.’

I find that children are so wonderful, and that I am so much the better person for being their mother, that extra chores must not be permitted to stand in the way. So I explained to my darling daughter that morning that we have chosen to give her several companions in the form of siblings, rather than to do everything for her.

She looked at me thoughtfully, pondering the connection between Bear Grylls, only children and hanging laundry, and I was satisfied with our choice.


  1. May 4, 2015    

    Great! Pinned it!

    • May 4, 2015    

      Thanks Erin! I’ll be following up with more thoughts on this “Science”.

  2. May 5, 2015    

    really interesting. Certainly I feel a guilt to my second child that she doesn’t get the time and attention my first got from me, but then I see the benefits she has from being around her elder brother and i guess it all works itself out in the end…

  3. May 7, 2015    

    This sounds an interesting study for any parent #weekendbookclub

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