Why Choose a Smaller Family

Every additional child born puts more pressure on an already overpopulated planet. The more of us there are, the quicker we consume Earth’s finite resources and the more we contribute to climate change. Choosing to have a smaller family doesn’t just help the planet. There are other benefits besides.

Less resources consumed

When we choose to have fewer children, every family uses far less resources. Less energy, water, food, clothing, furnishings and electrical goods. A smaller family also means less waste, which in turns reduces the energy, water and other resources required to manage and process it.

Choose a smaller family. Smaller families consume less natural resources.

Globally, the average person consumes approximately 675kg of food each year. It is also estimated that 40% of all food produced for human consumption is discarded as waste. For the average household, this equates to around 1.2 tonnes of food lost or wasted each year. It’s easy to imagine how much less food a smaller family would consume, as well as the reduction in waste, not to mention the cost saving per household.

By 2006, there were more internet-connected devices on the planet (phones, PCs, tablets, etc) than there were people. Today, the number of connected devices is estimated to be around 60 billion, an average of 7.5 devices for every human on earth. Technology advancements and changes in consumer trends also mean that mobile phones – the most prolific devices – are replaced on average every 2 to 3 years.

Quite simply, smaller families consume less and create far less waste, helping to reduce demand on our already overburdened planet.

Lower carbon emissions

Carbon emissions, or CO2 emissions, refers to the release of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere. This has the effect of trapping heat within the atmosphere, contributing to climate change in the form of increased air and ocean temperature, extreme weather events, increased wildfires, the extinction of animal species, and food supply disruptions. Carbon emissions also contribute to widespread respiratory disease from smog and air pollution.

Carbon emissions are almost entirely the result of human activity, in particular from manufacturing, construction, and the burning of fossil fuels for energy. The increase in emissions in recent decades, and the consequent acceleration of climate change, can be directly linked to human population growth.

A Swedish study, published in IOPscience in 2017, found that having one fewer child per family could save approximately 58.6 metric tons of carbon each year in developed countries.

The study set out the impact of different actions on a comparable basis. The conclusion was that the biggest impact by far on reducing carbon emissions is having one less child. The researchers calculated that one less child equated to a reduction of over 58 tonnes of CO2 for each year of a parent’s life.

Less crowded communities

Urbanisation has been rising rapidly in recent decades as human population growth continues. The World Bank estimates that today, around 56% of the world’s population – 4.4 billion inhabitants – live in cities. This trend is expected to continue, with the urban population more than doubling its current size by 2050, at which point almost 7 out of 10 people will live in cities.

Choose a smaller family. Smaller families lead less crowded communities.

Choosing a smaller family contributes, over time, to less crowded communities, which delivers many benefits. These include less traffic, better air quality, less noise, lower crime rates, closer connections with other community members, better health, and greater life expectancy.

Almost all people living in large cities are breathing in unhealthy levels of Nitrogen Oxide (NO2) on a daily basis. Because of its particle size, NO2 gets into the lungs, and in some cases the bloodstream, very easily. This can have a significant impact on long-term health. Research shows that NO2 exposure is not only linked to the aggravation of chronic breathing disorders, but is also linked to the development of asthma in children.

Physically and mental health is also a significant factor. A 2010 study conducted by a team of Dutch researchers found that people who live in highly populated cities are 11% more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders and 39% more likely to suffer from mood disorders than people who live in smaller communities and rural locations.

Empowerment of women

Smaller families generally result in a more equal distribution of parental responsibility. Women who have fewer children also tend to have greater decision making power in the household and are less likely to be drawn, or pushed, into being exclusively a mother.

Smaller families allow for more female participation in the workforce, an increase in household income, improved women’s health, and better life opportunities for children. In particular, having fewer children empowers the most disadvantaged women.

A study by the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) in the US concluded that women’s empowerment is significantly associated with a desire to have fewer children. The findings showed that the number of children considered ideal by women decreases as the empowerment index increases, regardless of the country in which they live.

The empowerment of women and human population growth are entirely interconnected. A 2020 study by the UNFPA determined that half of women in low to mid-income countries have no decision making power over their own bodies. It also found that the total number of women with an unmet need for contraception was still growing.

According to the World Bank’s 2012 Gender Equality Report, women in smaller families are more likely to enter further education and secure higher-skilled jobs. The report also found that smaller families resulted in women being less likely to suffer domestic violence.

When we choose to have a smaller family, not only do we help to slow population growth, we also allow women to have bodily autonomy, making them better able to maintain their health, raise healthy children, and create more sustainable communities.

Choose a smaller family. Smaller families lead to greater empowerment of women.

Greater wellbeing

Choosing a smaller family generally leads to greater physical and mental wellbeing for all family members. Research shows that healthier parent-child relationships tend to be formed within smaller families and that having a larger family can impact negatively on parental involvement in a children’s development and education within the home.

Choose a smaller family. Smaller families lead to greater wellbeing.

Findings indicate that within smaller families there is generally a greater frequency of interaction between children and their parents, resulting in closer relationships within the family unit.

A 2024 study by the Ohio State University determined that teenage children from larger families have poorer mental health than those with fewer siblings. The study found that ‘resource dilution’ had a negative impact on the wellbeing of teenagers, where more siblings equated to fewer resources and less attention from each parent. Results showed that the strongest negative associations with mental health were observed among siblings born within a year of each other.

And it’s not just children that benefit. A smaller family size also leads to happier and healthier parents who are able to give more time, attention and love to their child or children. There is less financial pressure and the parents also have more time for each other which, in turn, creates a happier home environment for all.

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