Why is it that children without siblings in this country are almost twice as commonplace as they were a generation ago? Surely it is a natal no-brainer? Childcare, time-off work, the price of an extra bedroom. To cap it all, the Government has slashed child benefit. Little wonder then that more than half of couples with an only child say they cannot afford another. Better to channel those scarce parental resources into giving the best chances to one. But as the fashion for the one-child family catches on, Colin Brazier asks whether there is a cost - for parents, society and children themselves. Brazier draws on his years as a foreign correspondent to consider attitudes to siblings abroad, and his experience as a father of six, to assess how attitudes are evolving here in the UK.
Sticking Up For Siblings: Who's Deciding the Size of Britain's Families? explains how recent shifts in academic thought are consistently showing a brother or sister to be a potentially powerful vector for social adjustment, moral capital, emotional intelligence, and even exam performance. Just as unexpected is the growing body of evidence revealing that a sibling can have a positive impact on a child's resistance to allergies, obesity, depression and family crises. Ultimately, Sticking Up For Siblings poses questions for policy-makers as well as parents. Brazier does not peddle old prejudices about the 'spoiled' or 'anti-social' child. He does, however, debunk a new stereotype - the cost of raising a child. This inflation-busting figure emanates not in Whitehall's information departments, nor in academia's social policy units. Instead, it is in the press offices of big financial institutions that the guesswork takes place. Once the headline-writers are through with them, this blizzard of estimates acts as powerful contraceptive to the growing number of 'one-off parents': mums and dads who feel they cannot afford to give their only child a sibling.