From Many Children to an Only Child

Most people would consider any family with at least four children to be a large family. Although large families used to be the norm in the U.S., they are now almost taboo. Growing up, we couldn’t go anywhere without someone gasping at my mother and asking, “Are all five of them yours?”, to which she’d point to my dad and say, “Yeah, and they’re his, too.”

Back in 1900, almost half of U.S. household’s had at least six family members. Now, 110 years later, the average american household is comprised of only three.  Why the decline?

Back in the day families tended to be larger due to the fact that not having sex was the only form of birth control. This was just as well because parents often needed help running a farm and children were like free labor. As the Industrial Revolution took place, parents could send older children to work in factories to provide supplemental income to the family. Of course, as the U.S. progressed, child labor laws came into effect and getting your children educated was more important than having them work for the family. Additionally, Margaret Sanger entered the scene and revolutionized reproduction with her birth control movement.

As new technologies emerged in the middle of the 20th Century we americans became more materialistic and our values turned from God and family to stuff. Cars, TVs, washing machines, blenders, whatever. Parents could just have a few children and live a life of luxury.

And it seems that in this day and age, parents are more interested in raising one perfect child (or as I’d like to call a “project”), rather than having a bunch of little hellians running around. In this sense, children have almost become a status symbol for parents to parade around with. It’s quite easy now for a parent to live vacariously through their only spawn because you only have one kid’s schedule to manipulate.


About Sarah Cordonier

I am a junior Television Journalism and International Studies Major at West Virginia University. I am currently taking Beginning Television Reporting and I plan on taking Advanced Television Reporting in the Spring, as a member of WVU News. Someday I would like to work abroad, as an overseas reporter.
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