Only children: insights from across generations and countries

12 Jul 2022

With many couples starting families later and a gradual shift in family size ideals, only child families are becoming or are expected to become more common, but many stereotypes remain around only children. Join us to learn more about whether only children are different or similar from children who grow up with siblings in terms of development, health, and family dynamics and about the underlying explanations behind any differences we found.

Event details

Despite fertility decline across advanced economies over the last few decades and the increasing numbers of only 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.

However, many important gaps in knowledge remain about the longer-term wellbeing of only children and whether and how growing up without siblings might affect their life chances. Moreover, it is unclear whether, and if so why, patterns vary over time and across geographical contexts.

In this event, we will present findings from an ESRC funded project on only children in the UK which adopts a cross-cohort perspective. The presentation will be followed by keynote speeches by Dr Katherine Keenan and Professor Toni Falbo, who are world-leading experts in only children and their life outcomes. The event will conclude with a discussion from Dr Ben Wilson and time for general discussion and reflection.

This event will be of particular interest to:

Researchers with an interest in families and well-being, early years practitioners, health visitors, third sector organisations.

Time Session
14:00 – 14:30 Presentation of research project, Alice Goisis & Jenny Chanfreau, CLS
14:30 – 15:10 Presentation, Katherine Keenan, University of St Andrews
15:10 – 15:50 Presentation, Toni Falbo, The University of Texas at Austin
15:50 – 16:00 Break
16:00 – 16:15 Discussant, Ben Wilson, Stockholm University
16:15 – 16:30 Questions


Speaker biographies – Katherine Keenan, Toni Falbo and Ben Wilson (click on image to open PDF)

About the research – The wellbeing and lifecourse trajectories of only children

An ESRC funded research project from February 2019 – July 2022

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.

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