What’s the magic number of kids a family needs to meet the large family definition? When people make comments about you having your hands full? (Or remarks too rude to put into print?)
Is it when your grocery bill doubles, or when you have to buy a bigger car? Maybe when networks contact you with a pitch for a reality tv show?
There’s no definitive answer to what number of children makes a family reach “large family status”. But that doesn’t stop people from making an educated guess.
Let’s look at some stats, some facts, and some real world experiences of large families.
What’s the Elusive Large Family Definition?
A Look at the Ideal American Family
It’s no secret that family sizes have been shrinking in recent years. That’s been blamed on birth control, more women choosing to work, changing preferences, and more. Whatever the cause, you can see the numbers changing.
According to the Pew Research Center, there’s been a big change in the American ideal family size. In the 1930s and ’40s, most people felt that 4 or more kids made the ideal family. Today, that number has dropped to 2 children.
Actual Family Size
Because the percentage of households without any children at all is so high, it’s important to compare apples to apples. If we want to find out what a “large family” is, we’ll need to compare only households that have any children at all.
That number is harder to come up with than you might think. For instance, this chart gives a nice breakdown of how many people live in a household. But it doesn’t tell you the breakdown of adults versus children. Are two of these people parents, or just one? How many of these households have elderly family living with them? It’s hard to say.
Other studies break down the number of children in a household, but they don’t give more detail than to lump together all families with 3 or more children.
Because studies take time to gather information and crunch it, all of these resources will lag behind at least a couple of years.
A Look at Some Better Studies
This census data from 2012 shows a break down of family size from 1 child to 4 or more. If you compare only households with any children at all, here’s how the percentages come out.
- One child families make up 43%.
- Two child families make up 36%.
- Three child families make up 15%.
- And families that have 4 or more children come in at just 6%.
This study from Pew is effective, because it’s a more apples to apples comparison. It’s from 2014 and it shows the break down of children in mothers 40-44. Women of that age are more likely to have reached the end of their childbearing years.
According to this chart, a family size looks more like this:
- 1 child 22%
- 2 children 41%
- 3 children 24%
- 4 children 14%
An Interactive Resource
The most interesting resource I’ve found comes from the New York Times. They put together an interactive chart that lets you select stick figures to represent your own family make up. Then it tells you how many other American families look like yours. Check it out here.
How to Determine If You Have a Large Family
To decide if you have a large family, read some clues.
Based on these studies, it seems that just 6-14% of families have four or more children. That would make families with at least 4 kids a large family.
No, it’s not scientific. But how you feel about your family size helps to determine whether you have a large family or not.
For instance, in some areas a large family isn’t uncommon. We have five children, but in our small town we know several families that are larger than our own. If we lived in another area of the country, we’d likely be the largest family on the block.
Having a large family isn’t about feeling overwhelmed. Surprisingly, it’s common to have a calmer feeling when you have your fourth child. This study shows that families with 4 kids are the happiest.
This post from Conserva Mom talks about enjoying motherhood at baby number four. And my own research talking to moms of many reveals that most of us felt like we finally knew what we were doing by our fourth baby.
It’s a matter of opinion by mothers of self proclaimed large families, but it feels like there is a natural shifting point at the fourth child that slides you into a different kind of family.
What Do You Think?
In an unscientific (but fun!) study, I’ve asked for opinions on what magic number of children creates a large family. Check out the conversation on Facebook.
And leave your own vote below.
Coming up with a large family definition is tricky, but many signs point to four children as the magic number.
It’s all in the way you read the statistics and how you feel about your own family size.
For more reading…
Be sure to check out How to Organize a Large Family in a Small House.
Do you have a large family?