Connections between Birth Order, Birth Spacing, and Child Maltreatment: Population-Level Estimates


Anna Rybińska, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Center for Child and Family Policy

Short birth spacing, a birth-to-conception interval of under 18 months, is common in the United States, with over one third of all second or higher order children conceived under 18 months after the birth of their older sibling. While associations between short birth spacing and adverse health outcomes immediately post-birth are well-documented, the linkages between short birth intervals and long-term child well-being remain understudied. In addition, studies linking birth spacing to long-term child health rarely account for birth order.

In this talk, Anna Rybińska will outline a program of research to examine connections between birth spacing and order and child health, focusing on the risk of abuse and neglect in early childhood. Using birth records data in North Carolina for the past 25 years linked to multiple administrative data sources, Rybińska estimates the probability of child maltreatment investigations within the first five years of life by family size and birth-to-conception interval. She also evaluates whether current recommendations for birth spacing are relevant for child maltreatment prevention and identifies sub-populations at the highest risk of child maltreatment following short birth spacing. Her findings offer a nuanced view of how family size and birth intervals can affect child well-being, as well as a critical consideration of the role that poverty plays in driving such associations.

Anna Rybińska joined the Center for Child and Family Policy in August 2019. She is a postdoctoral research scientist for Family Connects International and the Prospective Study of Infant Development. Her research interests focus broadly on the variation in family formation patterns across time, space, and social groups and the implications of family formation patterns on the well-being of mothers and their children.