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Anxiety and depression as an effect of birth order or being an only child: Results of an internet survey in Poland and Germany

Published on: 14th September, 2017

OCLC Number/Unique Identifier: 7317595908

Background: Various studies examined the effect of birth order. First born children show usually better cognitive performance than their later born siblings. Studies on emotional aspects yield heterogeneous results, sometimes in favour of first born, sometimes in favour of later born children. Studies comparing only-children with children with siblings are rare. Method: An internet survey was performed in 508 Polish and 500 German subjects. Only-children, first born, middle born and latest born children were compared regarding body mass index, depression, anxiety and partnership. Results: No differences among first born, middle born and latest born children were detected. Only-children reported significantly less symptoms of social phobia than first born children (z=0.50, p< 0.01). Conclusions: Except for suicidality, the results of this study question the sense of further investment in studying effects of birth order. In contrast, examining differences between only-children vs. children having siblings seems to have the potential to yield interesting and new results. Optimally, such research would combine self-report measures with reports from others, such as parents, teachers or clinicians.
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