A relationship between maternal and child use of general practitioners (GPs) has been shown to exist for some time, however, the reasons for this relationship are not clear and the extent to which this relationship extends to tertiary care is unknown. The aim of this study was to examine the relationships between the utilisation of health care by siblings and mothers over a 14 year period. A retrospective cohort study of 756 mothers and their 1494 children up to age 14 years was conducted in three general practices in Western Australia. Medicare claims and hospital morbidity records for 1984-1997 were linked using deterministic and probabilistic matching. Generalised Estimating Equations and correlations were used to examine the relationships between the utilisation of primary and hospital health care by family members. Significant correlations were found between hospital admissions of all participants and their GP visits, specialist visits, pathology and diagnostic imaging combined and hospital length of stay. There was a strong association between siblings' use of GPs. A child's rate of GP attendance increased with that of its mother. There was a weak but significant relationship between siblings' use of hospitals, and a child's hospital admission rate increased with that of its mother. It is concluded that there is a strong relationship between siblings' use of GPs and a weaker but still significant association between the hospital admissions of siblings. As expected, there were strong associations between mother and child visits to GPs. There was also an association between a mother's use of hospital and that of her children. This finding reduces the plausibility that the relationships found between utilisation of health care by siblings and mothers can be explained entirely by behavioural factors, and suggests the presence of intergenerational correlation of morbidity. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.