Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Elizabeth Legerski


Research in the field of birth order is expansive and has been used to explain many social processes, including the sexual behavior of young adults. However, results regarding the influence of birth order on risky sexual behavior are somewhat limited, sometimes contradictory, and often lack generalizability to larger populations. In this thesis, using

data from the National Health and Social Life Survey (1992) and multiple regression techniques, I investigate the influence of ordinal position on two measures of sexual behavior,age at first sex and total number of lifetime partners, among young adults age 18 to 30. Results show that birth order may have limited influence on some aspects of sexual behavior. Specifically, ordinal position does not significantly influence age at first sex, but does influence total number of partners. The results also show that only children are different from firstborn children in that they report higher numbers of partners and slightly earlier age at first sex. These findings indicate the relevance of including birth order and examining only children and firstborns separately when studying some aspects of young adult sexual behavior.