Over the years, social scientists have theorized about numerous factors that can be linked to divorce. One of those has been that couples whose first-born child is a girl are more likely to split up than those whose first child is a boy. It has been theorized that because men relate better to sons than daughters, they’re more likely to stay in the marriage if they have a son.
Now, two researchers have another theory for why divorce is more prevalent among couples whose first-born is a daughter. The theory involves “pre-birth female survival advantage.”
Stress hormones produced by a pregnant woman can impact the probability that her fetus will survive. However, the researchers say there is evidence that female embryos have a better chance of surviving in utero when a mother-to-be is experiencing stress than male embryos have. Therefore, girls are more likely to survive to be born into an already-rocky marriage than boys.
The study, titled, “Do Daughters Really Cause Divorce? Stress, pregnancy, and family composition,” was published in the July edition of Demography. An abstract of the study notes, “Conservative specification of parameters linking pregnancy characteristics, selection into live birth, and divorce are sufficient to generate a selection-driven association between offspring sex and divorce which is consequential in magnitude.” The study also found a link, not surprisingly, between marital conflict and divorce.
The female survival advantage has been recognized before, but in females who have already been born. This new study, which used data that looked at the link between how often a couple quarreled and the gender of their first-born child, extends the theory into the womb. As one of the researchers, a Duke University professor who teaches Public Policy and Economics, notes, by taking the “daughter-to-divorce association” back to fertilization, “it’s a much more complicated story.”
Obviously, stress isn’t good for either a mother-to-be or her child, regardless of the child’s gender. If a North Dakota couple is having problems before they have a child, there’s no reason to assume that those problems won’t worsen once they are also dealing a tiny, screaming infant dependent on them for his or her every need. Couples who are considering having a child or might well benefit from some marriage counseling to determine whether they can resolve their issues or need to go their separate ways before introducing another person into their family.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Study Offers Explanation For Link Between Daughters And Divorce” Rebecca Adams, Jul. 22, 2014