A married couple finds themselves constantly fighting. They are unhappy with each other and unhappy with their relationship. Though they have considered a divorce, the wife is pregnant and the couple wants to try to stay together for the sake of their unborn child. Just a few months later, the child is born. Will the gender of the baby have an impact on whether the couple stays together?
Just a few months ago, the answer might have been yes. In 2003, researchers found that parents of girls were more likely to divorce than parents of boys. The findings set off a firestorm, igniting debate about whether parents prefer boys and why a parent might choose to stay in a relationship for one child and not another. But recently, more data has come to light that seems to suggest that the gender of a baby does not cause a divorce—the stress of an unhappy marriage causes the gender of the child born to the marriage.
“The Demand for Sons”
In 2003, economists Gordon Dahl and Enrico Moretti released a ground-breaking study, “The Demand for Sons.” The researchers analyzed Census data from 1960-2000 and found that:
Fathers are less likely to live with their child if that child is a girl;
Women whose first-born child is a girl are less likely to ever marry than women whose first-born child is a boy;
Unwed parents are less likely to end up marrying if they discover that their unborn child is a girl;
The parents of first-born girls are more likely to divorce than the parents of boys; and
Mothers are more likely than fathers to have custody of their children, but when fathers do have custody, it is more likely to be of a son than a daughter.
Furthermore, Dahl and Moretti found that the more daughters a couple had, the more likely they were to divorce. While parents with one daughter were 5 percent more likely to divorce than parents with a son, parents with three daughters were 10 percent more likely to divorce.
Understandably, the research set off a debate. Do Americans have a gender preference? Are male children still seen as preferable to female children? Do fathers love their girl children less, or do mothers love their girl children more?
Over the past decade, few answers to these questions have been forthcoming, but many scholars insisted that the correlation held true: female children were detrimental to a parents’ relationship. That idea changed in mid-July, when an economist and a sociologist set out to find a new explanation.
The two researchers noted that when it is a question of survival of the fittest, it is usually women who survive. Women seem to be biologically heartier than men, and that aptitude for survival begins in the womb. Because a stressful relationship (such as an unhappy marriage) can affect an embryo’s chances, female children are more likely to be carried to term and born to an already in-conflict couple than male children. Thus, female children may be the result of a divorce-prone relationship, not the cause of it.
Contact an Illinois Family Law Attorney
The new study shines a light on the issue of whether a child’s gender affects their parents’ marriage, but ultimately, it leaves just as many unanswered questions as the first study. Why are fathers more likely to have custody of a son than a daughter? Why do mothers of first-born daughters tend to remain unwed?
This study, and the questions that it raises, could have a huge impact on family law. If you are considering divorce but are concerned about how it could affect your children, contact a compassionate DuPage County family law attorney at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices. Get the divorce and child custody answers that you need.
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