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IOE Blog


Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society


Only children in the UK are doing just fine

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 12 July 2022

Photo of parent walking with a young child.

Picture credit: Susan Jane Golding

Jenny Chanfreau and Alice Goisis. 

One-child families are becoming more common in many countries, including the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, 18% of women born in the early 1970s had one child only, up from 12% among women born a decade earlier in the early 1960s and 14% among women born about a generation earlier, around 1945. Yet many outdated preconceptions and stereotypes persist about what only children are like and how their lives turn out. Our project, using data from four British birth cohorts born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000-2002, provided a comprehensive analysis of the characteristics of only children born in different decades in the UK and how they are doing in childhood and adulthood. Overall, the picture that emerges around only children in the UK is reassuring.

For any research on only children, we first need to be clear about who is an only child. This might appear straight-forward at first glance, as the dictionary definitions of ‘Only child’ suggest: a child who has no sisters or brothers (Cambridge); a person who has no siblings (Collins); or a person who never had a brother or sister (Merriam-Webster). Yet closer reflection reveals (more…)

Migration stories: views from the inside

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 3 September 2015

Julia Brannen.
Being a migrant is a process and not simply a status. Migrants are more than cheap labour; they also have family lives. Fathers and Sons: Generations, Families and Migration is based on an Economic and Social Research Council study of fatherhood in three generations of men: grandfathers, fathers and sons conducted at the UCL Institute of Education in 2009-12. It includes grandfathers who migrated to Britain in the mid 1900s and Polish fathers who came to the UK in the 2000s.
Lives change over time and how migrants view their lives changes also. On the one hand, the lives of these migrants were tough: the Irish and the Polish men worked in manual jobs in the UK, many in the harsh, precarious and dangerous conditions of the construction industry. On the other hand, both groups looked back on their lives as successful. These stories challenge the popular view that migration is problematic and necessarily a social problem and bear witness to the significant contribution that migration brings to a society over the long term.
The Irish grandfathers who remained in the same industry for the rest of their working lives measured their success in (more…)