Thursday, 21 March 2013

Do daughters cause divorce?

Did you know that parents of girls are more likely to divorce than parents of boys?

A decade ago, economists Gordon Dahl at the University of Rochester and Enrico Moretti at UCLA identified the gap, and noted that it widened as you added girls to a family. Parents of three girls are 10 per cent more likely to split than are parents of three boys! And an unmarried couple is more likely to marry if they learn their unborn child will be a boy than a girl. The figures vary with country: in Vietnam parents of a girl are a whopping 25 per cent more likely to divorce than parents of a boy.

Does this suggest that boys are an asset to a marriage and girls are somehow a liability. Steven Landsburg, also of the University of Rochester, has looked at this argument. Maybe Dads prefer boys and will put more effort into keeping the relationship together in order to raise them? 

Or is it that women who have daughters have less need for a husband? Anita Kelly, a professor of psychology at Notre Dame, points out that nearly 75 per cent of all divorces involve a wife leaving her husband, so the question is not why do men stay for boys, but rather why mothers of daughters are divorcing more than mothers of sons.

Professor Kelly concludes:
… wives with daughters are less likely to stay with their husbands because they know that with a girl, they’ll never be lonely or without help. Thus, they may be less willing to tolerate any bad behaviors from their husbands (and less willing to stay married) because they don’t need their husbands as much. This idea could even explain why couples expecting a girl are less likely to marry: A woman carrying a girl anticipates that she won’t need a husband.

What do you think?

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