Are children from larger families less likely to get divorced?

It is common knowledge that far too many marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Though couples have may choose to file for divorce for a variety of reasons - one spouse may want children while the other does not, for example, or one person may have a tendency to snore too loudly - one recent study suggests that there may be a simple way to determine whether a person is likely to seek a divorce. Surprisingly, it is the number of siblings they have.

Researchers at Ohio State University recently presented the findings of a study at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. The study involved the examination of data from the General Social Survey, a long running survey on the demographic characteristics of households in the U.S. The data in the Ohio State study was collected over 40 years, from 1972 to 2012.

What researchers discovered was that for each sibling a person had, his or her chances of getting divorced were reduced by approximately two percent. The authors of the study were surprised by the findings, but they offered at least one possible explanation for the data. They believe that having a large number of siblings helps a person to develop social skills that are particularly useful in establishing a successful long term romantic relationship.

There are, however, those who were quick to criticize the authors' conclusions about the importance of siblings. Some suggest, for example, that people with a greater number of siblings are more likely to grow up in families where the importance of family bonds is routinely emphasized. If this is true, then the number of siblings a person has is not an important factor.

Other sociologists, while agreeing that the findings of the study are interesting, suggest that the jury is still out on the issue. Typically, before there is widespread consensus on these sorts of issues, researchers must conduct multiple studies and account for numerous possible explanations.

Those who grew up without siblings should take heart, however. A study published recently about the social skills of only children found that they did not differ in significant ways from their counterparts from larger families.

For the time being, then, the Ohio State study remains an interesting examination of the importance of siblings, but not one whose findings are considered to be conclusive by everyone.