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Do Parents of Girls Divorce More Than Parents of Boys?

The age old conversation on the relative merits of sons and daughters has been revived by Lisa Belkin, a writer for the Motherlode blog for The New York Times, and Anita E. Kelly, a Notre Dame psychology professor who writes on the Psychology Today website. The conversation is updated with new speculation on why parents of girls divorce more often than parents of boys.

Gordon Dahl of the University of Rochester and Enrico Morettie at UCLA identified the divorce gap between parents of girls and parents of boys in 2003. They made the point that the gap increases as you add more girls or more boys to the relationship. Parents of a daughter were 5 percent more likely to divorce. The parents of three girls were 10 percent more likely to divorce in comparison to parents of three boys.

Dahl and Morettie also reported that unmarried couples were more likely to marry if they learned their unborn child would be a boy. The conclusion was that boys are an asset in a marriage and girls are not, and therefore men might work harder to make a marriage work if they had sons.

Belkin wrote on her blog that Professor Kelly has turned the argument on its head. Professor Kelly asked, since 73 percent of divorces are initiated by wives, shouldn't the question be, "Why are mothers of daughters divorcing more than mothers of sons?"

Kelly theorizes that since sons add to the household workload while daughters decrease it, and since daughters instinctively "offer more and better social support" than sons and since humans crave company and fear loneliness, the mother of daughters has not only more motivation but a more secure future if she ends the marriage.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Daughters of Divorce, Sons of Marriage", Susan Reimer, 9/9/10

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