Using data from the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), and the 1946 National Survey for Health and Development, this project aims to investigate the consequences of growing up without siblings, particularly longer-term wellbeing and life chances.
The wellbeing and lifecourse trajectories of only children
February 2019 – July 2022
Despite fertility decline across advanced economies over the last few decades and the increasing numbers of one-child families, little is known about the consequences of growing up without siblings. Previous research suggests that despite strong stereotypes of only children, on average, singletons do as well as children with few siblings, and better than children from large families. But since existing evidence largely comes from US research conducted during or before the 1980s, it is unclear whether it reflects current or past patterns in the UK as the selection process into only children families might vary over time and across geographical contexts. Moreover, little is known about the longer-term wellbeing of only children, and whether/how growing up without siblings might affect their life chances.
To address these gaps in knowledge, this project will analyse the effects of being an only child on both childhood and adulthood outcomes in the UK over time. Using rich data from the 1946 Medical Research Council (MRC) National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD), the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) and the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), the project aims to analyse the socio-demographic characteristics of only children families, compare the socio-demographic outcomes and (physical/mental) wellbeing of only children relative to the wellbeing of children growing up with siblings over time in both childhood as well as adulthood.
Phone: 020 3108 9868
Alice is Associate Professor of Demography and Research Director at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies. She is a family demographer whose research interests span a number of substantive areas in social demography and epidemiology such as the consequence of childbearing postponement on child well-being and the social determinants of health. Alice is PI of an European Research Council Starting Grant to study the effects of Medically Assisted Reproduction on children, adults and parents. From 2019-2021 she was also the PI of an ESRC New Investigator Grant to study only children in the UK.
Phone: 020 7331 5229
Jenny works on an ESRC-funded project that focuses on the characteristics, circumstances and outcomes of ‘only children’ over the life course, involving analysis of four UK birth cohorts. Jenny’s main areas of research interest include gender, family demography and inequalities in paid and unpaid work over the life-course.
Jenny holds a PhD from the Department of Gender Studies at the London School of Economics and an MSc in social policy research, also from the LSE. Prior to her PhD, Jenny worked as a researcher at NatCen Social Research.
Following the lives of 17,000 people born in a single week in 1958 in Great Britain.
Following the lives of 17,000 people born in a single week in 1970 in Great Britain.
The most recent of Britain's cohort studies, following 19,000 young people born in the UK at the start of the new century.