The Effect of Older Siblings on Language Development as a Function of Age Difference and Sex

the EDEN Mother-Child Cohort Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The number of older siblings a child has is negatively correlated with the child’s verbal skills, perhaps because of competition for parents’ attention. In the current study, we examined the role of siblings’ sex and age gap as moderating factors, reasoning that they affect older siblings’ tendency to compensate for reduced parental attention. We hypothesized that children with an older sister have better language abilities than children with an older brother, especially when there is a large age gap between the two siblings. We reanalyzed data from the EDEN cohort (N = 1,154) and found that children with an older sister had better language skills than those with an older brother. Contrary to predictions, results showed that the age gap between siblings was not associated with language skills and did not interact with sex. Results suggest that the negative effect of older siblings on language development may be entirely due to the role of older brothers. Our findings invite further research on the mechanisms involved in this effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1343
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the participating families, the midwife research assistants (L. Douhaud, S. Bedel, B. Lortholary, S. Gabriel, M. Rogeon, and M. Malinbaum) for data collection, the psychologists (Marie-Claire Cona and Marielle Paquinet), and P. Lavoine, J. Sahuquillo, and G. Debotte for checking, coding, and data entry. We also acknowledge the commitment of the members of the EDEN Mother-Child Cohort Study Group: I. Annesi-Maesano, J. Y. Bernard, J. Botton, M. A. Charles, P. Dargent-Molina, B. de Lauzon-Guillain, P. Ducimetière, M. De Agostini, B. Foliguet, A. Forhan, X. Fritel, A. Germa, V. Goua, R. Hankard, B. Heude, M. Kaminski, B. Larroque, N. Lelong, J. Lepeule, G. Magnin, L. Marchand, C. Nabet, F. Pierre, R. Slama, M. J. Saurel-Cubizolles, M. Schweitzer, and O. Thiebaugeorges. The EDEN study was supported by the Foundation for Medical Research (FRM); National Agency for Research (ANR); National Institute for Research in Public Health (IRESP: Trés Grandes Infrastructures de Recherche, or TGIR, cohorte santé 2008 program); French Ministry of Health (DGS); French Ministry of Research; INSERM Bone and Joint Diseases National Research (PRO-A) and Human Nutrition National Research programs; Paris-Sud University; Nestlé; French National Institute for Population Health Surveillance (InVS); French National Institute for Health Education (INPES); the European Union Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7/2007-2013; High-End Climate Impacts and Extremes, or HELIX; European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects, or ESCAPE; Environmental Health Risks In European Birth Cohorts, or ENRIECO; and Mechanisms of the Development of Allergy, or MEDALL, projects); Diabetes National Research Program (through a collaboration with the French Association of Diabetic Patients, or AFD); French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES; formerly the French Agency for Environmental Health Safety); Mutuelle Générale de l’Education Nationale (MGEN); and the French Speaking Association for the Study of Diabetes and Metabolism (ALFEDIAM). Additional funding came from ANR contracts ANR-17-EURE-0017, ANR-11-0001-02 PSL, and ANR-12-DSSA-0005-01.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • language
  • language development
  • preregistered
  • sex differences
  • siblings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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