I have written previously about considering having a third child. I have two right now- my daughter turns seven in a few weeks and my son is five. I have only known what it’s like to have children very close in age (they are 20 months apart) and I have to say- it’s pretty much amazing in nearly every way now that they are older. Thinking of having another gives me pause due to the large age gap. However, a new study suggests that there is a perfect age gap for siblings and it is definitely not what I would have guessed.
According to the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, UK via iVillage, the perfect age gap between siblings is four years:
The new study, by the Institute for Social and Ecomonic Research, University of Essex, UK, examined 1,503 family groups 3,532 individuals and found that first-born females were 13% more ambitious than first-born boys, and that first-borns in general were 16% more likely to go on to higher education than their younger siblings.
The only time that siblings of different ages were equally likely to go on to higher education was if there was a four-year gap between them. The wider the age gap, the more likely university becomes.
I would think there are a few reasons for that- mainly, having to do with finances (four years of college- once one is finished, they can more easily pay for another child’s education) but also, a parent’s ability to pay attention to their children. I know that even though I now LOVE the age difference between my kids, I feel a bit sad looking back at how often I had to divert my attention from my toddler in order to care for my newborn and vice versa. I can see how having a bigger age difference could make it a lot easier to focus on each child since you can explain to your older one that they need to wait a few minutes so you can attend to the younger one. You can have more time to cuddle and read to your little one because your older child is better able to entertain themselves.
Since this study only focused on education, there are obviously other factors to determine the “perfect” age difference between kids and nothing is a guarantee. For us, we very much wanted our kids to be close friends and able to play together as soon as possible. We thought having them close in age would facilitate that and fortunately, we were right. Our kids play beautifully together. That said, I know plenty of families with bigger age gaps and their kids get along great too. Each family has to do what is right for them and of course, there are things like infertility and taking a while longer than expected to get pregnant that are out of our control.
Besides my own kids, I have my own childhood experience with my siblings to consider. I have a brother two years younger than me and another brother nearly seven years younger than me. Luckily, we all get along but I am closer with the younger of the two. He was so much younger than me that we didn’t compete for the same toys or our parents attention. I had moved out of the house by the time he started middle school and I was more like a young aunt to him than an older sister. We have that same dynamic now in many ways and it’s great for us. It is the relationship I keep in mind when thinking about whether or not we will have more kids.
I’m sure studies can tell us a lot about the “perfect” age gap but I think that definition changes for every family. There is no special formula for success. Studies like these are certainly interesting but I don’t think anyone should let it determine how they plan their families.
(Image: Derek Latta/Shutterstock)