This study investigated whether the timing of birth of the younger siblings was associated with the risk of the older siblings’ developmental vulnerability in early childhood.
Linkage of population-level birth registration, hospital, and perinatal datasets to Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) records (2009–2015), enabled follow-up of a cohort of 32,324 Western Australia born singletons. Children with scores <10 th percentile on an individual AEDC domain (Physical Health and Wellbeing; Social Competence; Emotional Maturity; Language and Cognitive Skills (school-based); and Communication Skills and General Knowledge) were classified as developmentally vulnerable. Modified Poisson Regression was used to estimate relative risks (RR) for associations between post-birth interpregnancy intervals (IPIs) and developmental vulnerability.
Relative to post-birth IPIs of 18–23 months, post-birth IPIs of <6 and 6–11 months were associated with an increased risk of children being classified as DV1 (aRR 1.21, 95% CI: 1.11–1.31) and DV2 (aRR 1.31, 95% CI: 1.15–1.49); and DV1 (aRR 1.10, 95% CI: 1.03–1.17) and DV2 (aRR 1.21, 95% CI: 1.09–1.34), respectively. Post-birth IPIs of <6 months were associated with an increased risk on four of the five AEDC domains. Post-birth IPIs of 48–60 months were associated with an increased risk of developmental vulnerability; however, the risk was statistically significant for DV1, DV2 and the domains of Emotional Maturity and Language and Cognitive Skills (school-based).