Big Families May Be the Best Way to Avoid Divorce

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Growing up with brothers and sisters helps to keep marriages intact. But it takes a big family to lower divorce rates.

In the latest research presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, scientists from Ohio State found that the more siblings you have, the lower your risk of getting divorced as an adult.

There are many factors that play into a divorce, the authors say, but the number of siblings may be a meaningful one. Other work showed that navigating family relationships can be a helpful introduction into managing friendships and spousal interactions later on. And the Ohio State scientists say it’s not just having a sibling that increases your chances of staying married, but the more brothers and sisters you have, the more protected you may be from splitting up with your significant other. “We found that the real story appears to be how family dynamics change incrementally with the addition of each sibling,” said co-study author Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State in a statement. “More siblings means more experience dealing with others and that seems to provide additional help in dealing with a marriage relationship as an adult.”

(MORE: Bullying In the Family)

That makes sense, and explains why Bobbitt-Zeher and her team did not find much difference between only children and those with one or two siblings and their divorce rates. Working with data from the General Social Survey, which includes interviews with 57,000 U.S. adults conducted between 1972 and 2012, the researchers concluded that for every additional sibling up to seven, there was a 2% reduction in the likelihood for divorce. Having over seven siblings didn’t seem to lower the odds of divorce any further.

Even after the team accounted for a variety of other factors that could influence divorce rate, such as socioeconomic status and age at marriage, the link between more siblings and lower divorce rate remained.

Learning to co-exist with siblings, each of whom has a different personality, can have a significant impact on how a person establishes and maintains relationships with others. A study published earlier this year, for example, showed that bullying among siblings can be as harmful on mental health as bullying by peers on the playground. And patterns of behaviors established in the family can serve as a foundation for interactions among spouses in adulthood.

“Growing up in a family with siblings, you develop a set of skills for negotiating both negative and positive interactions. You have to consider other people’s points of view, learn how to talk through problems. The more siblings you have, the more opportunities you have to practice those skills,” said another of the study’s authors Doug Downey, a professor of sociology at The Ohio State University in a statement.

(MORE: Siblings Brain Study Sheds Light on the Roots of Addiction)

The authors have already conducted studies on how siblings affect developing social skills, and now they’re interested in studying how these influences translate into behaviors and outcomes later in life. Their findings, however, only point to correlations. So not having many siblings or being an only child doesn’t condemn a person to divorce. Plenty of people from smaller families have successful marriages, but the relationship between sibling number and divorce does suggest that growing up with brothers and sisters can be a good foundation for creating positive relationships.

21 comments
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rivers
rivers

this article raise some relation between the devioce rate and the number of sibling, we know there are a lot concerns about the devoice and the relevant problem, as seen baby suffer too much from their parents device. but i do think the loyalty and the forgiveness is very important to keep the relation .

atiladelmosat
atiladelmosat

La responsabilidad sin limites por la absoluta obligación para con los hijos,nos transforma a los que señalamos como padres,enteramente en esclavos,solo vivimos para los hijos entregando todo lo que tenemos,aunque lo necesitemos demasiado.Cuantos se atreven a semejante proyectos,los que no se imaginan una vida de esclavitud 

hummingbird
hummingbird

The only problem with this theory is that you have to be rich to afford a large family now. When our society wasn't so materialistic, many poor and middle class people had lots of children. Many are reluctant to do so now as children easily feel ashamed when they don't have as much as the next child. Parents now aren't willing to struggle to feed, clothe etc many children as society now really looks down on you when you're poor.

btcsc
btcsc

Well, I don't know where they did that study...but it is bull. I am the first of three siblings, and we all have been divorced. Do not believe everything you read.

Brom2855
Brom2855

@hummingbird As the second oldest of 11 siblings, I know it's less expensive that it sounds. We don't eat out much, use coupons and internet deals as much as possible, take steps to keep everyone on our insurance to lower the costs, and as we get older, we're all expected to have a job to pay room and board. Plus, we homeschool, buy clothes and so on second-hand, and do it all on less than $60,000 a year!

I don't buy the ashamed nonsense. Everyone here learns to be grateful for what we have instead of being jealous, and the younger ones are always sharing their toys. They get creative with having fun, something that *never* happens when watching TV all the time.

Society has become materialistic, but that also means never thinking long-term. So when a disaster like a flood comes, typically the people hurt don't have much saved or their debts paid off, so they're in financial trouble. My family paid off the mortgage years ago! They also keep my siblings grades up because we're disciplined (or struggle to be), so we can get scholarships and lower rates on college loans.

Altogether, it's about finding ways to afford a large family, not being rich in money but rich in love. Go ahead and look at the homeschool groups, I think you'll find many of them are not rich by your standards either.

jfc
jfc

@btcsc Agreed. my ex-boyfriend is the second of five boys (no girls) and he ended up getting divorced. His ex-wife was also one of four children. I think it was because they got married too young. He was 21 and she was 23. Having siblings couldn't have prevented that, I don't think.

hivemaster
hivemaster

@btcsc Believe it or not, three is not "a lot" of siblings.  I come from a family of six siblings, and we were middle of the road, sizewise, in most of our Catholic schools.  Only one divorce, and it was from an abusive husband. Almost none of us are still Catholic, so you can remove that bias, too.

hummingbird
hummingbird

@Brom2855 @hummingbird It was good to read your response about your own experiences in a large family. However, you should still acknowledge that in our very materialistic society, some people do feel ashamed if they have much less than the next person.

BobbyChung
BobbyChung

@hummingbird @Brom2855 I think that religion should be considered as a possible intervening variable. Religions that promote large families also discourage divorce. Catholics and Mormons come to mind.