John Boehner, 1 of 12 Kids: Blessing or a Curse?

GOP speaker-to-be is 1 of 12 kids, something many say brings special skills.

ByABC News
November 15, 2010, 5:09 PM

Nov. 16, 2010— -- Lynda Meineke said the worst part about growing up in a German-Irish family of 12 children was fighting for the one bathroom in their two-bedroom house in Reading, Ohio.

She was lucky, one of three girls who got first dibbs. But her brothers, including the GOP's next House Speaker John Boehner, often had to run into the woods or seek a drain in the basement.

"The girls had no time to dilly dally," she said. "If we didn't get up when mom said to get up, then we lost some time in the bathroom."

Meineke, 51, said, nonetheless, growing up in a large family had more advantages than drawbacks.

Boehner, 61, credits his large family for the social and political skills he says he will need to soonlead the House of Representatives.

But despite anecdotal evidence about having many siblings, experts say that research shows no measurable advantages to family size, although birth order can play a role in intelligence.

"The legend, according to people with 12 children, is that it's a good thing, and it usually is," said Toni Falbo, professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas in Austin. "If the parents are fully functioning, bright, capable and hard working, they kind of organize the children so the older ones are responsible for the younger ones, on down the line, and that can work to benefit the kids."

"Scientific research shows either no benefit on social skills or it can possibly be a negative," said Falbo. "Even if you have all the resources, it's challenging."

One of the most famous parents of 12 were efficiency experts Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, whose children published the book, "Cheaper by the Dozen" in 1948. The story about their large brood was later made into several movies.

Other notables were the Von Trapps of "Sound of Music," and the fictional Waltons, who were based on the real-life family of Earl Hamner in "Spencer's Mountain."

Also in that group were the Kennedys and comedian Stephen Colbert,, who is one of 11.

Colbert has described his Irish Catholic family as "a humorocracy...Singing around the house highly encouraged."