Dynamic and heterogeneous effects of sibling death on children's outcomes

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jan 2;115(1):115-120. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1709092115. Epub 2017 Dec 18.


This paper explores the effects of experiencing the death of a sibling on children's developmental outcomes. Recent work has shown that experiencing a sibling death is common and long-term effects are large. We extend understanding of these effects by estimating dynamic effects on surviving siblings' cognitive and socioemotional outcomes, as well as emotional and cognitive support by parents. Using the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (CNLSY79), we find large initial effects on cognitive and noncognitive outcomes that decline over time. We also provide evidence that the effects are larger if the surviving child is older and less prominent if the deceased child was either disabled or an infant, suggesting sensitive periods of exposure. Auxiliary results show that parental investments in the emotional support of surviving children decline following the death of their child.

Keywords: children’s outcomes; dynamic effects; heterogeneous effects; human capital; sibling death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Cognition*
  • Death*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Siblings*
  • United States