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Birth order and health: Major issues


  • Elliott, Barbara A.


Birth Order has been described as a variable with a complex relationship to child and adult outcomes. A review of the medical literature over the past 5 years identified 20 studies that investigated the relationship between Birth Order and a health outcome. Only one of the studies established a relationship between Birth Order and a health outcome: third and fourth-born children have a higher incidence of accidents that result in hospitalization. The other demonstrated relationships are each explained by intervening variables or methodological limitations. Although Birth Order is not a strongly independent explanatory factor in understanding health outcomes, it is an important marker variable. Statistically significant relationships between Birth Order and health outcomes yield insights into the ways a family influences an individual's health.

Suggested Citation

  • Elliott, Barbara A., 1992. "Birth order and health: Major issues," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 443-452, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:35:y:1992:i:4:p:443-452

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    Cited by:

    1. Kieron Barclay & Martin Kolk, 2015. "Birth Order and Mortality: A Population-Based Cohort Study," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(2), pages 613-639, April.
    2. Grytten, Jostein & Skau, Irene & Sørensen, Rune J., 2014. "Educated mothers, healthy infants. The impact of a school reform on the birth weight of Norwegian infants 1967–2005," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 84-92.
    3. Anna Baranowska-Rataj & Xavier de Luna & Anneli Ivarsson, 2016. "Does the number of siblings affect health in midlife? Evidence from the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 35(43), pages 1259-1302.
    4. Saarela, Jan & Cederström, Agneta & Rostila, Mikael, 2016. "Birth order and mortality in two ethno-linguistic groups: Register-based evidence from Finland," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 8-13.


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