Although the desire to protect, or overprotect, is in many ways understandable, it can have a devastating impact on a young child’s development—and, quite often, these effects never go away. Being an only child is not a “disease,” but it often comes with a whole host of largely unforeseen risks that most today would rather avoid talking about.
According to Jordan Peterson, the fact that the median age for new mothers in the United States is 30 should concern us all. The Canadian psychologist recently told Bill Maher that mothers today are the same age that grandmothers were just a few generations ago. In 1900, the median age of marriage for women in the U.S. was 21.9 years; the average age for childbirth, meanwhile, was 22 years. Though a slight exaggeration on Peterson’s behalf, his concerns are nevertheless warranted.
Naturally, as the age of first-time mothers continues to climb, fewer children will be born. This has given rise to a new trend of “one-and-done” parenting, which a stern-faced Peterson warned is a recipe for societal and moral decay. He points out that siblings help keep us grounded and prevent narcissistic impulses from exercising too much power. With fewer and fewer children growing up with brothers and sisters, Peterson thinks society is headed in a dark direction. He appears to be right.
The esteemed psychologist G. Stanley Hall once stated, “Being an only child is a disease in itself.” Though that’s a wild overstatement, there’s an important truth buried in Hall’s observation.
In fact, single-child families in the U.S. are fast becoming the norm. Some 50 years ago, there were 10 million of them—but by 2020, there were 14.4 million single-child families. Today, more than 1 in 4 married couples have one child.
Why is this the case?
We’re told that some are saddled with environmental guilt. They believe that due to the effects of climate change, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. To bring more than one child (or, in some cases, any children at all) into this world, they believe, is unforgivable.
Also, as Peterson mentioned, people are marrying much later in life. With age, so the saying goes, comes wisdom. However, age also brings infertility. In women by the age of 30 (the median age for new mothers), fertility starts to decline. By the age of 35, the decline accelerates.