Birth order and perceived parental bonding in adolescents

Shari Lyn Nadler, Pace University


Parental bonding and attachment was initially studied to examine its effects on young children. It is now believed that there are lasting effects throughout an individual's lifespan especially during critical developmental periods such as adolescence. The nature of the bond to one's parents occurs on an individual basis and is not the same for each child within a family. It may be influenced by birth order as parents often respond differently to each child. Literature indicates that firstborn children as compared to laterborn children tend to report stricter parental control, greater pressure to achieve and less emotional warmth. Conversely, laterborn children tend to experience a more easy going relationship with parents without the pressure and anxiety which characterize the firstborn child's experience. The present study examined the relationship between birth order and perceived parental bonding in adolescents. The sample, taken from a larger longitudinal study, consisted of 123 adolescents ages 13–19, attending a public high school in Upper Westchester. The dimensions of care and overprotection for both mother and father were assessed by the Parental Bonding Instrument (Parker, Tupling & Brown, 1979). A demographic questionnaire was used to determine the subject's birth order within their family. It was predicted that firstborn adolescents as compared to laterborn adolescents would report lower levels of parental bonding as measured by greater levels of overprotection and lower levels of care. Gender differences and adolescent's perceptions of their mothers as compared to their fathers were also examined. Multivariate Analyses of Variance and subsequent univariate analyses when indicated were conducted to evaluate birth order and parental bonding based on the outcome factors of care and overprotection. Results indicated that there were no significant differences in perceived care from mothers and that firstborn adolescents reported higher levels of perceived care from their fathers and lower parental overprotection as compared to laterborn adolescents. Although significant differences in perceived parental bonding were found, results did not support the initial hypothesis. Significant differences were noted in maternal and paternal care scores but not for overprotection scores. Additionally, gender differences were not found to be significant. Present results contradict the previous research and suggest the need for future research to further explore how birth order may influence initial parental bonding and the lifelong attachment formed.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Individual & family studies|Social psychology|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Nadler, Shari Lyn, "Birth order and perceived parental bonding in adolescents" (1999). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9939740.



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