Exploring the structure of relative age effects research through a citation network analysis


For over four decades, researchers have studied relative age effects (RAEs) in sport, education, and business, noting consistent advantages for individuals who are relatively older than their peers. As the research discipline ages, knowledge synthesis becomes imperative. Thus, our purpose was to conduct a citation network analysis of RAE literature to enhance our knowledge of RAE citation structures and the interconnectivity of RAE studies. We searched for RAE-related articles in Web of Science that were published before 2022, excluding editorials, conference papers, corrections, and commentaries. Using bibliometrix, we analyzed a total of 484 RAE articles. In terms of descriptive results, the RAE field has experienced a 12.6% annual growth rate for total articles published since 1980. RAE articles were published in 151 journals by 1,180 unique authors, and received an average of 23.9 citations. Finally, three articles were found to have the strongest influence on the field, all of which are review/theory papers. Related to the conceptual structure of the field, it was evident that RAE research focused mainly on performance, maturity, and competition. For intellectual structure, we found three distinct clusters of articles that were cited together and 13 authorship clusters with few connections between clusters. Discussion centers on the role influential authors/articles have on the field, along with recommendations to increase the interconnectivity of RAE authors and research papers.