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Good Housekeeping
Jennifer Chan, Assistant Managing Editor
December 09, 2011

Wait at Least Two Years between Pregnancies for Smarter Kids

Research shows that two years is the ideal age gap for parents who plan to extend their family. By Jennifer Chan

If you’re thinking about adding another child to the family tree, you might want to wait at least two years after your first baby before doing so. According to a new study to be published in the Journal of Human Resources, siblings who are spaced at least two years apart score better at math and reading. 

Kasey Buckles, an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame, worked on the study with Elizabeth Munnich, a graduate student, to determine whether the two-year theory is reliable or not. Analyzing a data set of 3,000 women who have given birth to 5,000 sibling pairs, the two authors had the children answer standard academic questions between the ages five and seven. Results revealed that even just waiting a year before giving the first child a sibling gives the older child a better score on the Peabody Individual Achievement Test. Older siblings also tended to recognize more words compared to the average child. 

There are several reasons that could explain why the two-year age gap is beneficial. For one, it is easier to juggle finances when there’s only one baby in need of milk, baby formula, and visits to the pediatrician, among other things. For another, having two babies still in their diapers would constantly divide the time spent nurturing both siblings--spacing your kids out would ensure that, for two years or more, your older child would have your full attention and be better able to function on his own before a younger sibling comes along. The study also showed that older children who have siblings less than two years younger are read to less often. This results in more television watching than more hands-on forms of education.

"There are only so many hours in the day, and the longer that period can be when a child is the only child, the greater the investment they are going to receive," says Buckles, who, coincidentally or not, also has kids spaced two years apart.

This study stresses the importance of planned parenthood. If you need a little help in this area, check out these articles on FN:

(Photo by Ben Earwicker, Garrison Photography, via

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Jennifer Chan
Assistant Managing Editor
Jennifer Chan was a contributing writer for Female Network for two years before formally joining the team as a staff writer in July 2012... Read more...
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