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Why the Best Gift for Your Child Is a Brother or Sister

Why the Best Gift for Your Child Is a Brother or Sister

Original thinkers are hard to come by. If you doubt that, visit a diploma mill. You’ll see right off that credentials don’t confer character, creativity or common sense. Academic hubris conflates knowledge with wisdom. Such folks are a dime a dozen.

Sui generis

Then there is Colin Brazier: sui generis, in a class by himself. Original thinker, doer, family advocate nonpareil. Not tethered to a diploma mill, the debilitating ‘publish or perish’ treadmill doesn’t affect him. Yet publish he does.

A practising Catholic and widowed father of six, Mr Brazier forged an illustrious career as a globe-trotting journalist in blue-chip media, including Sky News, GB News and LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation). Along the way, he won an International Emmy Award and BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nomination. Such recognition is no mean feat.

But Mr Brazier is not defined by career success. Thankfully, he is much more — a pronatalist, or “procreativist” force of nature. Rather than ceaselessly carping about low fertility, tight money and the plight of the family, he focuses on solutions. In so doing, he highlights what so many have overlooked: social justice and the value of siblings.

Mr Brazier learned about this from his own family, so in 2013, he wrote a superb book, Sticking Up for Siblings: Who’s Deciding the Size of Britain’s Families? It is an engaging account of his life as a father of six and surveys the sea change in academic research on the family. It appeared at the very time when think tanks and diploma mills were tumbling to the realisation that siblings are a good thing. Siblings are good for each other, for the family, for society: a “powerful vector for social adjustment, moral capital, emotional intelligence, and even exam performance.” Wow.

The best gift

If you’re not up for a full-length book, see Mr Brazier’s latest, a brilliant paper entitled Playing Alone? Why the Best Gift You Could Give Your Child is a Brother or SisterGroundbreaking. Mr. Brazier doubles down on the themes in his earlier book:

[W]e as a culture seem to forget the value of siblings and the unique bond siblings share. As the average family size shrinks, children have fewer — or no — siblings. Siblings enjoy a special relationship. They provide children with ready playmates, confidants, and friends. Studies have shown that children with siblings have stronger interpersonal skills through their interactions with each other and are more empathetic, caring, and able to make and keep friends. Siblings are also there for each other during moments of profound loss and tragedy. When a parent dies, siblings are able to comfort and support each other. Simply put, siblings help children develop resilience and form healthy relationships.

But didn’t we already know that? Good to see the policy wonks finally figuring it out. Common sense is a hard-to-come-by commodity. Mr Brazier dishes it up in plain English.

Causation

Playing Alone? cites four causes of falling fertility, emphasised below. There is a surplus of specious reasoning behind each that deters couples from having children.

Economic uncertainty: When raising children is subordinated to elder support, you have a dysfunctional society. Media scaremongering says children are too expensive. Yes, they are expensive, but not prohibitively so. Second and third children need not be as “expensive” as the first. Hand-me-downs and siblings pitching in save money — akin to a ‘volume discount.’ Anybody remember the old Myrna Loy movie Cheaper By the Dozen?

Credentialism, widespread in the Global North, is when families break the bank on education so children can be “competitive” in high-pressure money-mad societies. Extinguishing family life for a status job is as short-sighted as it gets.

Popular culture shapes public perception. When celebrities and influencers have multiple children, that’s positive messaging for siblings. But Hollywood and Big Media persistently portray dysfunction, depravity and social pathology as the norm. Apparently, films featuring wholesome family life don’t rate. As civilisation declines, people embrace the decadence.

The changing role of religion speaks for itself. Absent moral and social consensus, which religious faith imparts, moral relativism rules. This obliterates standards, bringing anomie and atomisation. Children are subordinated to matters temporal and material.

Findings

Mr Brazier’s paper is chock-full of findings about siblings:

  • Men with female siblings have more empathy and respect for women.
  • There is a correlation between declining siblingship and increased depression, bullying and “social fragility”.
  • Sibling rivalry facilitates emotional development, maturity and social skills.
  • Lack of siblings is “significantly associated with obesity”.
  • Siblings are more active, crawling and walking earlier than only children.
  • Siblings have lower rates of allergies and disease.

Surprising? Not at all. But if you’re sceptical, there are pages of notes referencing study after study. Knock yourself out.

Siblings mitigate selfishness, mammon-worship and obnoxious personality traits. The only child tends to be a family fixation, increasing the odds of narcissism and neurotic helicopter parents. Little wonder there is a bumper crop of snowflakes, PC princesses and ultra-hip metrosexuals around. Spoiled brats?

Choice

Mr Brazier is for family choice. Here’s why:

In the UK, 40 percent of married couples have only children. The figure is 45 percent in Canada and 49 percent in the European Union. Many couples would choose to have more children, but social and economic forces thwart family choice. US adults would choose, on average, 2.7 children. The US fertility rate is 1.7. In the UK, the corresponding desire is 2.32 children. Fertility is below 1.9.

For decades, the only choice that mattered to progressive opinion was the choice not to have children. For women to… embrace the emancipation represented by birth control. But, in societies where those “freedoms” are now endemic, the truly unrealised choice is the choice to have, not to avoid having, a child.

Social Justice

Mr Brazier views pronatalism as a progressive cause. He poses critical questions about civilisational survival in the face of falling fertility and avid environmentalism. Doesn’t one home with several children have a smaller carbon footprint than multiple homes with only (single) children? Should democracies allocate families with children additional votes to ensure fair representation of the younger generation?

[C]an it be equitable that a mother of four faces the same pensionable age as a childless man or woman, even though the former has created future potential taxpayers and care workers?

If pro-natalism is to fulfil its potential as a progressive cause, then the relationship between family size and “social justice” must be shown to matter. Can it be fair that so many women want children they are unable to have? Can it be fair that so much wealth is concentrated in a dwindling number of hands? Can it be fair that one generation is doing so well at the expense of another?

Today, these are counter-cultural concerns. By mid-century, they will be part and parcel of public discourse. The world is changing. Children need a break.

Far too often, the pro-family cause comes across as reactionary. Mr Brazier turns that around, animating it as a progressive, transgressive movement.

How often do we see someone from the upper ranks of the fourth estate unabashedly promoting family values? A down-to-earth type amongst the chattering class! As a father of six and a gentleman of faith, Mr Brazier leads through example.

The good guys are gaining ground.

This article was originally published on Mercator under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Image credit: Pexels

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  • Avatar
    Cadence McManimon
    November 28, 2023, 9:51 am

    Wonderful article! I have eight siblings and would never want it another way!

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  • Avatar
    Karen
    November 28, 2023, 6:25 pm

    As an only child, I knew right away I wanted my first born to have a sibling. I guess I went overboard because we now have ten blessings. But I love watching the interaction between the siblings and I love that they all look out for each other and (usually) like spending time together, even the older ones with the younger ones.

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