A Parenting Dialogue: Should I Have a Second Child?

Should you have a second child? For many parents, it’s a question that’s even more difficult than deciding to have the first child. There are lots of considerations, like your current family dynamic, timing, the parents’ health, and your financial situation. We decided to take a closer look at what other parents, family experts, and researchers are saying about the benefits of having one child versus the benefits of having multiple children.

The Question

Take, for example, Marissa, a stay-at-home mom who recently asked whether she should have another baby:

“My husband and I are eight years apart and have a year-and-a-half old toddler who is absolutely wonderful. Recently, I've been entertaining thoughts of having another baby. We've talked about it, but haven't come to any conclusions.
I grew up in a family where I was the youngest of three, however, my siblings were 12 and 14 years older than me, so I always felt like an only child. I hated not having a close sibling. I felt very alone, and I don't want to make my child feel that way. I want her to have a close sibling there, to talk to or play with.
My husband, on the other hand, has a brother only a couple of years younger than him. He says he wouldn't have loved being an only child, simply because they didn't get along when they were younger.
 

Any thoughts? Should we go for it with a second baby or no?”

should i have a second child

What Other Parents Are Saying

Go For It!

We asked parents and other caregivers for their thoughts. Several were quite supportive and encouraged Marissa to give it some serious consideration:

“Only you can make this decision. I say think about it for a couple of months before you jump into anything. I know what you mean though, I'm seven years younger than my husband, and he wants to knock out the baby phase while still in his thirties. I think if you're even thinking about adding another baby then you probably aren't done.” – Sharon, married mom of two toddlers
 
“Have them close together so you get it out of the way.” – Helen, mother of three, grandmother of seven
 

Give It a Little More Thought

Other parents felt Marissa should more closely examine her motivations for wanting a second child and the perceived benefits of having multiple children:

“You should not have another child so that they will have a built-in friend. You just can’t assume they’ll want to talk or play with their sibling.” – Sarah, full-time nanny
 
“Please don't assume that since the kids are close in age they'll be friends. I'm only three years older than my sister, and we are not close. I wouldn’t even call us friends. I mean, we love each other and do family things, but we’re not really friends. Growing up I was always jealous of other people who were friends with their siblings, but it is what it is.” – Shawn, mother of one toddler
 
“Having a second baby is definitely something both parents should fully agree on. Talk to your husband honestly about it. That said, siblings are not guaranteed friends. I'm sorry you missed out on a close sibling bond. I’ll bet that you still had best friends from school, though, right? Do you want a baby because your daughter is getting older or because you think another addition would be great for the entire family?” – Katie, mom of four grown children
 

What the Experts Are Saying

A Clinical Psychologist

According to Seth Meyers, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and relationship expert, there’s no one right answer for everyone, and parents shouldn’t stress about the “magic recipe.”

“Having only one child also allows the parent to be more attuned to the individual emotional needs of the single child because there isn’t another child whose needs take the parent away from the other child. The fact that the parents of only children have more time and energy to become and stay attuned to the child shouldn’t be overlooked, because attunement to the emotional needs of a child is crucial for positive emotional and cognitive development in children.”

But are parents who only have one child shortchanging that child out of another important relationship? Dr. Meyers says perhaps.

“As a therapist who has sat through almost 100 family therapy sessions in his career, I can tell you that kids often feel that their strongest ally and most trusted partner in the family system is their sibling or siblings — even if they sometimes fight and insist that they dislike each other. A sibling relationship is actually one of the best vehicles for children to learn how to navigate relationship struggles and to learn about conflict resolution as they grow up, so many single children will miss out on this opportunity unless they socialize extensively with other children or child relatives who serve almost as honorary siblings.”

A Social Psychologist

Dr. Susan Newman is a social psychologist, parenting expert, and bestselling author who focuses on building strong family bonds, the benefits of having one child, and the interaction between adults and children. She has researched this topic for more than 20 years and published two books about it, The Case for the Only Child and Parenting an Only Child.

According to Dr. Newman, “We have been brainwashed into believing that siblings are socially or intellectually advantageous – or both. As a means of ensuring positive development and happiness, they are not mandatory.

Most people do a reality check before adding another child to their family. The era of getting married and having the requisite two children is long gone. Family has new definitions that include single parents, gay and lesbian parents, and, of course, one child. The decline in marriage, the number of single women having babies, women in the workforce, the difficulties and expense of adoption and infertility technology, all point to more one-child families.”

An Economist

In his book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, economist Bryan Caplan reasons that, when it comes to satisfaction in family choices, many parents are sabotaging their own happiness by having too few children.

He reasons that the temporary struggle of dealing with infants and toddlers or fear of a “dangerous world” are not good reasons to avoid having more children. Caplan argues that if you like children at all, “you shouldn’t let overblown, short-term concerns outweigh the huge pleasure you could get from enjoying your family later in life.”

What the Research is Saying

Research from as far back as the 1980s demonstrates no set differences between only children and those with siblings, aside from the fact that only children may have more powerful attachments with their parents. More recent studies from China (a country with many generations of only-children) suggest there may, in fact, be some differences, like singletons having less patience, yet simultaneously being more resourceful thinkers than children with siblings. Other studies suggest only children may be more imaginative but less adept at regulating their emotions.

The Bottom Line

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to deciding whether or not you want a second child. Like having the first one, there may be doubts that cloud the picture for you. Visualize how you and your partner would feel if you found out today that you were already expecting a new baby. Then try imagining how you would feel if you found out you would never have another one. Do you feel happy? Relieved? Disappointed? When it comes down to it, a “complete” family looks different for every person and every family. So make the decision from your heart. 

Thinking of moving forward with a second little one? Take a look at these amazing double stroller collections!



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