Could having a daughter actually cause a couple to divorce? For a long time, that has been the conventional wisdom among academics and the general public.
Divorce is statistically more common in families who have firstborn daughters and, for years, this has led many to believe men simply prefer male children. The idea is that because of this preference, men are more likely to stay in a marriage that produces sons than one that produces daughters.
However, new research suggests that the conventional wisdom may be wrong.
Researchers from Duke University in the United States have suggested the answer may actually be rooted in biology.
While it may be common knowledge that women live longer than men, the researchers claim this greater survival rate begins in utero.
They say epidemiological evidence indicates that female embryos are more “robust” than their male counterparts. Therefore, girls are more likely to survive the stresses of pregnancy, which are intensified if there is conflict in the parents’ relationship.
The research looked at a representative sample of people between 1979 and 2010 and found that couples with more relationship conflict are more likely to give birth to girls.
Amar Hamoudi, co-author of the study which appears in the journal Demography, said:
“Many have suggested that girls have a negative effect on the stability of their parents’ union. We are saying: ‘Not so fast.’”
He added that because girls can survive stressful pregnancies that boys could not, more of them are being born “into marriages that were already strained”.
So it is possible that, not only is the conventional wisdom wrong, it is completely backwards. Instead of daughters causing divorces, it could just be that couples destined for divorce to begin with have girls.