Mind the Gap

stick_figure_family_portrait_1600_wht_2962It seems that people are leaving longer gaps between having children, perhaps due to financial pressures.

Since 2009 the gap between siblings in the UK has increased by 5 months to an average of 3 years and 8 months.

What is the ideal age gap between children?

With a gap of 3 or 4 years the first-born child feels more secure as they have had their parents undivided attention. An older child, once they’ve got over the shock of a new baby, may be gentler with it and is more able to play by itself while parents are tending to the new baby.

But parents can feel drained getting back into the routine of a new baby with sleepless nights, nappy-changing and afternoon naps. And there will be fewer things that interest both children when it comes to family outings or holidays and they are less likely to play with each other.

A gap of 2 years or less consolidates the baby stage with all that entails and the children will have broadly similar interests. Family outings are easier and the children may share the same friends.

However the older child has to grow up prematurely and sibling rivalry can be intense as the older child is at its most egocentric and the arrival of a rival can be frustrating.

The study was carried out by Simone Cave and Caroline Fertleman, commissioned by Bounty, a parenting club, and reported in the Times.

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