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Daughters May Empower Moms to Leave Abusive Relationship

Divorce studies often show that married couples with first-born daughters are more likely to get divorced than couples who have had a first-born son. In fact, in a study done in 2003 at UC Berkeley, it was found that the risk of divorce was 5 percent higher with a first-born daughter than with a son, and it was 10 percent higher when the couple had three or more daughters.

For a significant time the predominant theory explaining the phenomenon was researched from a male perspective, how a relationship with a male child either increased the quality of the marriage or made divorce seem less like a viable option. The theory focused on the factors that kept a father in a relationship despite the fact that 73 percent of divorces were initiated by the female partner. Anita Kelly, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Susan Heitler, a clinical psychologist took a different approach and looked from the female perspective.

The two approached the daughter-divorce effect by asking what it was about the mother-daughter relationship that made a mother more likely to leave her husband. Through their research, they concluded that daughters often empower their mother to leave a negative and often abusive relationship. Women in the family have a special emotionally supportive relationship, according to the study. Many mothers try to teach their daughters about true love and healthy relationships, making them more critical of their own. In their attempt to set a positive example for their daughters, many women try to break a pattern of domestic violence that has persisted for generations.

The mother-daughter relationship not only offers emotional support, but statistics support the theory that a mother may be less fearful of raising a single child when that child is a girl. Statistics consistently show that while boys often increase the amount of household chores a mother is often burdened with, an adult daughter reduces that burden.

Source: ABC News "Couples With Daughters More Likely to Divorce" Courtney Hutchinson 10/6/10

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