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Having Children is Good for You ... But Stop at Two ... Any More Could Be Fatal

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Daily Mail: Having children is good for your health - as long as you stop at two.

A study of more than 1.5million men and women found that becoming a parent has a clear effect on the chances of developing conditions from cancer and heart disease to becoming an alcoholic or dying in a car crash.

But the relationship is not straightforward - it depends on the number of children a couple have.

Too few or none at all, and they are at increased risk of dying from almost all of the conditions studied, perhaps because they lack the extra motivation to look after their health.

But too many, and they struggle to cope with the financial and emotional stress of bringing up a large family.

Having two children, however, is just right, the journal Social Science & Medicine reports.

The researchers studied records of Norwegian men and women born between 1935 and 1968 for information on births and deaths.

Worst off were those who were childless, or had only one child.

They were at increased risk of dying from almost every illness or problem studied, with alcohol abuse proving particularly problematic.

Accidents and heart and circulatory disease were prominent in the women, and lung and respiratory problems common in the men.

This may be because they did not feel as great a need to take care of their health as those with bigger families. But large families have problems too.

The analysis, by British and Norwegian researchers, showed that having four or more children raised the risk of cervical cancer in women and of violent deaths and fatal accidents in men.

Researcher Emily Grundy, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: 'Four-plus children might have adverse effects arising from stress, socio-economic disadvantages and lifestyles, off-setting, or even outweighing, social benefits of parenthood.'

However, having lots of babies was found to cut a woman's odds of breast cancer.

This was to be expected, as the physiological changes associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding are known to help ward off the disease.

Three children brought a mixture of good and bad health, while parents of two fared the best - perhaps because the number provides the right balance of stress and support.

But, when it comes to simple happiness, three may be the magic number.

In recent research, 90,000 British mothers and fathers were quizzed about their circumstances and how happy they were with their lot in life.

This showed that marriages become happier with the arrival of a baby - with three children bringing the most joy.

However, children only brought happiness to couples who were married. If a pair were simply living together, the birth of a child tended to bring discontent, the Glasgow University study found.

Researcher Luis Angeles said this may be because the commitment of marriage brings with it the readiness to have children. Or, that parenthood brings the most benefits when ' conditions were right'.

Dr Angeles' analysis also revealed that a married couple's happiness increases with the birth of each child, up to the third. With child number four, levels of satisfaction start to dip.

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous March 13, 2010, 1:45 PM

Wow… what a bunch of crap! I came from a home with two children and my parents were raging alcholics… its all in the parent’s personality. Did this study even investigate the parents background? What a ridiculous study and a ridiculous blog.

Anonymous March 13, 2010, 2:00 PM


Ellen March 14, 2010, 6:24 AM

The unquestioned implications here are disturbing. There are so many variables involved, I think someone is playing fast and loose with their statistics and it is overstepping to draw conclusions like this about health issues and family size.

But the ideological implications are more disturbing. In this day and age, I hardly think that most people are happiest having three children. Not everyone has that “breeders” mindset. There are plenty of people with three children who regret having had that many, or having children at all. There are plenty of people who have only one child who are quite content.

We look to have our own choices validated. As the pleased-as-punch mother of an only child, an only child who was perfectly content to be an only child because he had close friendships and lived in a community that was not made up of isolated nuclear families locked into the consumerist American life, I am always pleased to see statistics that point to the “correctness” of my choice in terms of favorable outcomes for myself and my child. You, who identify yourself primarily as a mother, are pleased to see statistics that affirm your choices. This is natural on both of our parts, but it hardly delivers valid information outside of our own preferences.

But above and beyond the numbers of children that you and I happened to have, there are some interesting issues that are not mentioned here. For example, not every woman has a choice about how many children she has. Many live in societies where access to birth control is unavailable due to religious superstition and oppression of women.

One thing that seems to be a taboo in discussing family size is population growth. We have issues with water, energy and climate change. We are stripping the oceans bare. We are have unsustainable farming practices. By our reckless breeding and refusal to allow a public dialog on population limitation, we are painting our children and even ourselves into an ugly corner.

Our resources are finite. You don’t have to be a math genius to figure out the ramifications. Those who deny this are either of the superstitious sort who believe in an afterlife and think their deity won’t hold the destruction of the planet against them, or they are narcissists who figure as long as they and their offspring come out on top, who cares about the ever-growing, ever more miserable peasant class living in a world that is less and less able to support them.

Yeah, so I guess I don’t think three kids makes you the happiest, not if you have a brain, not if you have a heart.

K March 31, 2010, 11:26 AM

Total NONSENSE but coming from Europ not surprised!

Every one of my Granparents friends who had 4, 6, 8, 13 kids died of old age and were very rarely sick. No cancer. No heart problems. I figure it’s because they god loads of natural exercise running after them and they actually played with them.

Ever see “19 kids and counting” …. happy kids and a healthy mom!

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