Small vs Large Family

large family reading together

I’ve always been curious when I see parents with four or five children in the park. From afar it’s nice to see a large family playing together, but I also think it must be hard work! I have two children, a daughter who is almost five and a one-year old baby boy. Both my wife and I feel having two children is a lot tougher and more draining than one, and we’re not considering any more.

Of course the upside is even greater when you see your kids interact with each other and you see their different personalities. In this article, let’s dig deep and look at the pros and cons of small vs large families. Which are better?

Is it better to have a small or large family?

It’s your decision, plain and simple. Some people have dreamt all their lives of having three, four or even five children. Having a large family can be a lot of fun, but it is harder work, especially if your siblings don’t get on very well. However, I think most couples usually plan on having one or two children and this certainly seems the norm in today’s society.

What are the pros and cons of having a large family?

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of having a large family:


  • Easier for children to entertain themselves. Providing everyone gets on well with each other, siblings can often play with each other which can make things a bit easier for you. They can play outside in the garden, or do some other activity indoors.
  • A lot of fun! If you are tight unit as a family and all get on well, you can have a blast playing with each other. With more children around, playing board games can be more fun and playing sports can be more fun. There’ll never be a dull moment in your household.
  • More diversity and creativity in your family. We all have different characters, and different strengths and weaknesses too. In a larger family, you’re more likely to get a range of children with different personalities and traits. One might be sporty, one might be an academic, one might be more creative, and one might be lucky enough to be good at all three!
  • More support from each other when they grow up. For most children, parents are their role models, but older siblings can also fulfil this role. If one sibling is going through a tough time, sometimes an older brother or sister can be more useful than a parent.
  • Children share better and are more grateful. There’s nothing worse than seeing a child not appreciate the toys they have, and in small families it’s a lot easier to spoil a son or daughter. In a large family, children have to learn how to share pretty quickly or they won’t be popular with their other brothers and sisters.
  • Better social skills, sense of responsibility and empathy. Although children can be empathetic in smaller families, it’s more likely to be seen in children from larger families. There is a stronger sense of responsibility to keep the family unit going and to get on with each other. Children in larger families will generally have stronger social skills.


  • You have less one-on-one time with each child. In large families you’re more reliant on older siblings helping out more with the other children just because you’ll be busier.
  • You have less time to yourself. Even with 2 children I feel like I have no time to myself (aside from 2 hours playing tennis each week). With more children, there’s even more demand on your time.
  • Less money. There’s no other way to say it, but having more kids will cost you more. You can pass down toys and clothes to the younger children to save a bit, but your bills will be higher particularly for food. Also, if you’re planning on any holidays, they’ll be a lot more expensive too.
  • Negative opinions from other people. People are always gossiping and there is a stigma around having a large family. You may get some disapproving looks your way as people are bound to think how you can all manage under one roof. There’s also the view that an ever increasing global population is putting more of a strain on our planet and resources, and having a large family certainly doesn’t help.
  • Less space. Unless you have large house, you are all going to be on top of each other very easily. This can cause more stress and arguments. If you’re planning on having a large family you need to think about space carefully. It will likely mean buying less toys (which is no bad thing really) and clothes.

What is considered a large family?

It depends where you live. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average number in a household is 6.9, where as in Europe it’s around 3. In terms of children, African women have 4.5 children on average, where as in Europe it’s down to just 1.6.  The general consensus in the Western world is that a family of 3 or more is considered large, but it can vary greatly by country and what region you live.

What are the pros and cons of having a small family?

Here are the strengths and weaknesses of having a smaller sized family:


  • More comfortable life. With a smaller family, chances are your life will be easier than if you have a large one. Less stress, more time to do your hobbies and to see your friends.
  • More space. If you live a small house, space is less of an issue with a small family. With one child, a two bedroom flat will do for many families. If you have two children, they can share a bedroom for a while when they are small, but a modest three-bedroom flat or house will be absolutely fine.
  • More money. You’re weekly bills will be less with fewer children, particularly for clothing and food. Furthermore, you’ll have more disposable income for buying toys, going out to fun places and going on holiday.
  • More attention from parents. With one or two children, it’s a lot easier to focus on their development. You can spend more time reading to them, playing with them and teaching them useful skills.


  • Higher chance of having a selfish child. While pouring your undivided attention and love on your son or daughter is completely natural, there is a risk your son or daughter has less empathy and grows up to be more spoilt as they will be more demanding.
  • More introverted children. If you only have one child and they don’t have a nice group of friends to play with, there is a risk they will be lonely, become more introverted and won’t have strong social skills.
  • Less support when they get older. Having a larger family means there’s more support when a child needs it. Sometimes parents can’t solve all the problems, where as a sibling can make a real difference.

What is considered a small family?

It’s really subjective and it depends where you live, but for most people a small family consists of a couple and just one child. Some may consider two children as also small, but in my opinion that’s a standard size for a family.

What is the ideal family size?

This is rather a subjective question. The phrase 2.4 children in the UK (2.5 kids in the US) has been around for decades highlighting that most families have between 2 or 3 children, and this was the stereotypical norm in society. However, this number shouldn’t be taken as fact.  In most Western countries the average size has gradually decreased since the end of WW2. In parts of Africa, the average family size is a lot higher.

What size family is the happiest?

There have been a number of studies on family size and happiness, and it often depends where you live in the world. It does seem that larger size families are generally happier, in the Western world at least. In Europe, after conducting an extensive survey of 366,250 people, Eurostat concluded that families with three or more children were happier than those with just one or two. In the US, the view is a little less clear. A Gallup poll found out that 41% consider two or more children as ideal, but 50% say one or two is best. What is clear though is that there was a lot more support for larger families in the 1940s-1960s. Also, these days individuals with larger incomes and college education slightly prefer smaller family sizes.

How many people in an average US family?

According to Statista, the average number of people in a US family is 3.15 (in 2020). There has been a gradual decline from 1960 over the past 50 years when it was 3.67.

How many people in an average UK household?

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the average household size in the UK is 2.4.

How many people in average Canadian family?

In Canada, the average number of people per family is 2.9 (as of 2018).

small vs large families