This paper describes the creation of a unique maternal identifier for use in the investigation of perinatal, postneonatal and child outcomes in relation to maternal characteristics. All Midwives’ records of Western Australian (WA) births were routinely linked to registrations of births and deaths for infants born from 1980 to 1992 inclusive, then linked to WA hospital discharge data and to registries of birth defects and cerebral palsy to create a longitudinal health record for each infant. However, since each birth to a woman was recorded as a separate event, there was no way to identify siblings. Probabilistic record linkage, based on information about the mother, was used for this task. Logical inconsistencies within the data were used to test the validity of the linkages between birth records attributed to each mother. Information about the mother from other epidemiological studies and data abstracted from hospital case notes was also used to validate sibships. Linkage of the records of 310,255 births in WA during that period resulted in the formation of 181,133 sibships of one or more children. Pooling the results of all of the validation methods gave an error of 0.9%. Linkage identified 3678 sibships containing multiple births, and 305 sets of maternal twins. Ascertainment of twins and their siblings for an ongoing twin register, the WA Twin Child Health (WATCH) study, was a natural consequence of this process.
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