Birth order and health: Major issues

Barbara A. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-452
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • birth order
  • family status and health
  • inter-family relationships


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