Several readers have written to ask about how Baby Bunching can affect your children's developmental rates? This seems like such a difficult question to answer because so many factors have to be considered. But I decided to do a little research....for our readers we always go to great lengths. And here is the closest thing I found.
A Harvard study was released in 2006 by two Swedes* who studied just this: Does child spacing affect children's outcomes? Now I need to provide a bit of background on this. Many countries in Europe are undergoing a population decrease. So to help people procreate they offer incentives. In a place like Sweden where many families have to have two incomes to live and pay the high taxes, the government offered an incentive in 1980. A woman could take maternity leave and keep her job at 90% pay if her births were less than 24 months apart. So basically the Swedes were paying for Baby Bunching. Apparently, there was a tremendous increase in Baby Bunching in Sweden after 1980. Big surprise, huh?
I welcome anyone to wade through the research. My wanky statistics class in college made it hard for me to get through so much of the lingo, but I'm going to try to pull some interesting bits out and share.
Overall, their research showed that close spacing has a negative effect on "school performance" and "educational attainment." That actually surprised me. But there are several things to consider here.
First of all, they mention that when kids are Bunched, "childrearing obligations dominate and parents cannot give their undivided attention, commitment or energy to any one child." Hear hear! I'm guessing we all knew this was the case, but hard to read it in print.
Another point they make is "close spacing may also drain economic resources." Their point is that decreased child spacing actually increases your chance of a larger family. If you are 25 and Baby Bunch, you have a larger window of time to expand your family. If you are 39 and Baby Bunch, nature pretty much dictates your family is going to remain on the smaller end. While a larger family holds many positives, they are saying over all attention and resources are limited when you have many children.
After reading this, I wasn't sure what to do with this information. My kids are Bunched and that's the way the cards fell for us. Do I love it? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Let's be honest here, taking care of kids is difficult. And one of the hardest things is the unknown.
Each phase requires a certain amount of energy and attention: baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary, etc. In the beginning when you find out you're pregnant for the second time while your first is so little, most of us are unsure of what is to come. How hard is it to take care of a toddler? What's it like to be the parent of a preschooler? What will their needs be in second grade? While my kids now take so much less physical energy now, I don't have to hold them or carry them or chase after them, they challenge me constantly on an emotional and mental level. Now at ages 6 and 4 1/2 years old, they need an enormous amount of resource for each of them individually. Even if I didn't enroll them in camps or classes, just school, learning and play takes more time than you realize when your baby is 6 months old.
It's a difficult call to make sometimes. I love my kids and they love each other. I feel lucky that they have each other as built in playmates. It's an amazing gift, but one that doesn't come without hard work on our end as well. The juggling of two tots and multiple diaper sizes doesn't end when they get older. The need to continually provide as best as we can on an individual basis is critical for success. We must remember they are not only a Bunch but individually different kids with different needs.
To answer the question: Yes, Baby Bunching does affect your kids, but as parents we have the ability to make the choices that will better our children for the future. And in the end, remember your kids will be each other's best friend no matter what. After all, the only other person who really "gets" mom and dad is your silbing, right? The fact that they will stand together as a Bunch to either make you crazy later in life or take care of you when you're old and sick is important.
* Study by Per Pettersson-Lidbom and Peter Skogman Thoursie. Does child spacing affect children’s outcomes? Evidence from a Swedish reform. 2006.