Book Chapter

Negotiating the Birth Order: Children's Experiences



Punch S (2008) Negotiating the Birth Order: Children's Experiences. In: Klett-Davies M (ed.) Putting Sibling Relationships on the Map: A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective. Research and Policy for the Real World. London: Family and Parenting Institute, pp. 30-49.

This paper explores the ways in which children perceive the relative opportunities and constraints of their birth order position within their families by comparing and contrasting the views of oldest, middle and youngest siblings. It shows that birth order and age can be experienced at times as a constraint on sibling behaviour and at other times as a resource that can be utilised in a dynamic and creative manner. Thus, although birth order is important in shaping children’s experiences of sibship, relative benefits have to be actively maintained and limitations of each position in the sibling order are not passively accepted and are often contested. The paper argues that birth order and age are not fixed hierarchies but can be subverted, contested, resisted and negotiated through children’s everyday experiences of family life. It is based on a qualitative study of 30 families with three children between the ages of 5 and 17. In-depth individual and group interviews were conducted with 90 children from this sample of 30 families of mixed socio-economic backgrounds in central Scotland.

siblings; childhood; birth order; age; negotiation; Children Research Methodology; Siblings; Child psychology; Birth order

Title of seriesResearch and Policy for the Real World
Publication date30/11/2008
PublisherFamily and Parenting Institute
Publisher URL
Place of publicationLondon

People (1)


Professor Samantha Punch

Professor Samantha Punch

Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology