How Many Kids? Conflicting Happiness Arguments

How many kids to have? That’s not a small or inconsequential question for those who are blessed to be able to make that decision. Two voices in the news this week offer conflicting advice to those of us wondering what the right balance is when it comes to the size of our brood.

The first, a study commissioned by the website Bounty.com, found that of all possible combinations of number and gender of kids, having two daughters makes for the most happy and peaceful family life. According to the Telegraph newspaper:

The results show of all the variations, two girls make for the most harmonious family life as they are unlikely to fight, will play nicely and are generally a pleasure to be around.

It also emerged two girls rarely annoy their parents, make limited noise, often confide in their parents and are unlikely to wind each other up or ignore each other.

By contrast, doubling the number of daughters is likely to lead to a whole world of pain, the report found.

As the father of the two most awesome girls on earth (pictured above) and the husband of a woman who is one of four daughters, I am particularly intrigued by these findings. My younger daughter, being an infant, is too young to prove or disprove the theory–there’s no fighting…yet.

What does this mean for any future deliberations on whether to have more kids? Not sure it would impact my thinking, especially after reading about a newly published book, “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids,” by Bryan Caplan, an economist.

According to press information and an excerpt posted on the book’s website, Caplan posits that we parents complain more than our due about the burdens of parenthood and under-estimate the joys. His solution is in the book’s title–procreate more!–but he qualifies that by emphasizing that “more” is not one-size-fits-all. He’s not advocating that everyone have huge families, only that we parents (or childless couples) should consider the arguments for having somewhat more kids than we may otherwise have had. From the excerpt:

There are many selfish reasons to have more kids, but there are four big reasons to put on the table right away:

 First, parents can sharply improve their lives without hurting their kids.  Nature, not nurture, explains most family resemblance, so parents can safely cut themselves a lot of additional slack.

Second, parents are much more worried than they ought to be.  Despite the horror stories in the media, kids today are much safer today than they were in the “idyllic” 1950s.

Third, many of the benefits of children come later in life.  Kids have high start-up costs, but wise parents weigh their initial sleep deprivation against a lifetime of rewards – including future grandchildren.

 Last, self-interest and altruism point in the same direction. Parents who have another child make the world a better place, so you can walk the path of enlightened selfishness with a clear conscience.

 What do you think? How many kids is the right number? Are you persuaded by either of these arguments?

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  1. by Anneka

    On April 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

    That is such an interesting article. Who would of thought that two girls would be the most harmonious?!

  2. by homeshuling

    On April 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I have two daughters, and for many years they really didn’t fight. Now that they are almost 6 and almost 8, they do fight almost daily, but they bounce back quickly and they don’t come to blows.

    As for us, 2 is the perfect number, but there’s definitely no one size fits all answer. We have a two bedroom house and don’t have the means to move. We can (just about) afford to send our two daughters to a Jewish day school, and we can all fit in our regular size car. That being said, if we wound up with an unplanned child, I’m sure we would be just as happy.

  3. by k. farlow

    On April 8, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    That’s interesting.
    There isn’t a “right” #… it varies from family to family.

  4. by Tabby

    On April 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Ha!! I have two daughters, 7 and 4, and they fight almost constantly!! They do play together nicely on occasion. They are definitely as loud as any two children could possibly be, and I think because it’s just the two of them there is a lot of competition already. I’m hoping a third child might break that up a little bit! Interesting findings though………

  5. by Vixtoria Smart

    On April 8, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    My husband and I have two boys, 5 and 1 1/2, and my brother-in-law has two girls 6 and 4. As I can tell both families are perfect the way we r. Their girls fight no less than our boys and our boys r just as loving as their girls. There is no perfect number or sex, there is no one size fits all. The perfect family is whatever God gives u.

  6. by Erin

    On April 8, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I have 7 natural children and a step-son. The ages range from 16yrs down to 1 year. The best number combination has gone up by one which each new addition. My kids fight, my kids make noise, but if ANYONE messes with their siblings…they are as one. If I had to pick the easiest number to maintain it would be 5. Kids play nice in groups of 2 or 3. Hard to leave anyone out with 5 of them.

  7. by Mae

    On April 8, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    We have 2 boys, ages 6 (almost 7) and 2 1/2 and a new little girl aged 7 weeks. Our boys fight and are loud but I think any kids are like that. Our daughter is the quietest of the bunch but she’s quickly finding her lungs. We’d like to have 3 more kids in the future but I think the key is the age gap between kids and not the gender or number that makes for harmonious sibling relationships. I think for our family at least, the 4 year age gap between kids is ideal. My older son is very protective of his younger siblings, plays well with our middle son and there was never any real jealousy. My middle son tends to have a lot of jealousy towards his younger sister so I wish we’d let him have a little more time being the “baby” before we had another child but our daughter came as a very welcomed suprise.

  8. by M

    On April 8, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Victoria Smart…very smart! :)

  9. by sabrina

    On April 8, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    What a bunch of nonsense. How many people can chose the number of children to have? Do you have ANY idea how many people have trouble conceiving? And to then add the pressure of what the perfect gender would be? Because obviously that’s even easier to decide than to conceive. Ridiculous. Spend the research time and money on something useful.

  10. by Joanna

    On April 8, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    First of all I agree with a previous poster that I think the age between children means more than the number of children that you have. Often it seems that children that are too close in age fight more frequently (most likely for attention) and children who are too far apart in age ignore eachother (probably because theory have nothing in common except genetics).
    My sister in law is a perfect example. Her oldest is 12, the middle is 3, and the youngest is about 6 months. The first two ignore eachother. The oldest could care less that the younger 2 even exist. He despises when they cry and turns up his nose at the idea of helping change a diaper or make a bottle. The middle child has regressed TERRIBLY since the baby came. He isn’t potty trained, refuses to use a zippy cup, and wakes up more during the night then the baby.

    I strongly feel that the “right number” of children is the number of children that you can afford financially. Too often you see people depending heavily on others because they decided o have more children then they can afford. It’s sad.

  11. by Elaine

    On April 8, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    We are blessed with a 4 1/2 yr old boy and a 2 yr old girl. Both are glorious souls; my boy an introvert, smart, and affectionate, my girl an extrovert, bubbly and outgoing. They enjoy playing together a lot and are learning to share. Natural squabbles come up but both kids are very loving and have filled our lives with great joy. We’d welcome more if we are blessed and I wouldn’t beleive any parent with a large number of kids would say the ideal number is less than what they have.

  12. by Rea

    On April 8, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I have one amazing son totally by choice. We can comfortably afford him and he’s really all we desire to have.
    I’m not having more children because it increases my chance of grandchildren, that’s the most ridiculous reason I’ve ever heard for having multiple children! It also seems very selfish to have children simply so THEY can provide you with children.

    I have a sister 15 months younger than me. We fought like cats and dogs, and we both have the scars to prove it! I think its a lot more parenting style and family environment that contribute to how siblings will get along vs the research that says 2 girls is best.

  13. by McK

    On April 8, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    I do wish more of my friends would consider having more children. None of them want to have more than two. We have 3 already and want more. We really don’t fit in. I also wish other people would be more encouraging to couples who are open to more children.
    Children are a blessing, not a burden. If you see them as a burden, you have messed up priorities and don’t know what life is all about. It’s not about your dumb career or the stuff you can afford. Your career will cause you stress to no end and you will just keep wanting more stuff no matter how much you have. Family is a forever investment.

  14. by Frances Evesham

    On April 12, 2011 at 10:14 am

    One of the happiest families I’ve ever known had twelve children. The older ones looked after the youngest, the house was full of laughter and fun. But I stopped at three because I liked them all so much and I worried my luck may not hold. You have to know what’s best for you. And, as an earlier comment points out, we don’t all get to choose how many kids we have, so maybe it’s best just to be grateful for the ones we have.

  15. by ZbabyG

    On April 13, 2011 at 7:56 am

    I completely agree with Mck…
    Me and my husband are expecting our first…. A boy! I always wanted a boy first but didnt expect to have children so soon. We were so excited as soon as we found out! The number of children or the sex is what matters the least! Its about what you want! We’re due June 25 and are already talkin about a second child! Possibly a third… Of coausre with a few years inbetween.. But my sister has 5 ages 7, 6, 4, 2 and1 and they all get along… And she is just as happy as when she had her first 2! My mom had 6. The first 2 were 13mnths apart! The rest of us about 5 yrs apart we fought just as any kids would but we all played together as well! My parents never complained!

  16. by Stephanie

    On May 3, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I think the age difference is of greater importance than quantity. I have a 5year old son and an 8month old daughter. The 4&1/2 year difference has been AMAZING, although that was not my original plan. My intent was 2 years apart but after 17 months of trying and 2 miscarriages, I’ve conceded that God knows the best age difference for each family and when HE thinks you’re ready, You’ll get your second (or third or fourth, etc) miracle. In MY particular situation, I cannot imagine trying again, but if another miracle was bestowed upon us, we’d welcome with open arms!!

  17. by Nicole

    On May 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    The number of children and gender each couple has should be chosen by God. He will not give anyone more than they can handle.

  18. by Aletta

    On September 22, 2011 at 4:27 am

    I was the second of only two children,both of us are girls. We more than fought, we kicked, screamed, smacked, punch and ruined many countless barbies through out our childhood. My parents to this day say we were hell on wheels and were just awful when we wanted to be. I believe it doesn’t matter the sex of the children, it matters how well they want to behave and how the parents react to every new situation.

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    On October 29, 2012 at 7:34 am

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