Spillover effects of gestational age on sibling’s literacy

David C. Mallinson, Felix Elwert, Deborah B. Ehrenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adverse health events within families can harm children’s development, including their early literacy. Using data from a longitudinal Wisconsin birth cohort, we estimated the spillover effect of younger siblings’ gestational ages on older siblings’ kindergarten-level literacy. We sampled 20,014 sibling pairs born during 2007-2010 who took Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening-Kindergarten tests during 2012-2016. Exposures were gestational age (completed weeks), preterm birth (gestational age <37 weeks), and very preterm birth (gestational age <32 weeks). We used gain-score regression–a fixed effects strategy–to estimate spillover effects. A one-week increase in younger siblings’ gestational age improved the older siblings’ test score by 0.011 SD (95% confidence interval: 0.001, 0.021 SD). The estimated spillover effect was larger among siblings whose mothers reported having a high school diploma/equivalent only (0.024 SD; 95% confidence interval: 0.004, 0.044 SD). The finding underscores the networked effects of one individual’s early-life health shocks on their family members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-259
Number of pages16
JournalEarly Child Development and Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics

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