Human Nature

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 205–230 | Cite as

Birth order, sibship size, and status in modern Canada

  • Jennifer Nerissa Davis


This paper investigates the possibility that birth order affects the degree to which individuals attain higher status. Humans give birth to a variable number of (usually) single offspring spaced one to many years apart, and continue to maintain contact with them for extended periods of time. The continued presence of older siblings, and arrival of younger ones, means that each child is reared in a different family environment. Research findings from the field of behavior genetics suggest that these differences have a significant impact on the development of individual differences between children in the same family. Although no two families are likely to be exactly the same, factors such as birth order remain constant across them, and may have similar influences. The present study examines the relationships between birth order, sibship size, and several variables thought to index future status attainment (status striving) in a random sample of Canadians. Firstborn children appear to be more status oriented than lastborns, and this effect is mediated by sibship size. While firstborn children are unaffected by the number of younger siblings they have, the status ambitions of youngest children decrease the more older siblings they have. Birth order effects on status attainment are not as strong as they are on status ambitions.

Key words

Birth order Family size Individual differences Parental investment Reproductive success Status 


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Copyright information

© Springer 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Adaptive Behavior and CognitionMax Planck Institute for Psychological ResearchMunichGermany

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