Over the last 20 years, researchers have looked at the relationship between having sons or daughters and the likelihood of divorce. What they’ve found is that parents of daughters are slightly more likely to get a divorce than those of sons. (1)
Parents of Daughters More Likely To Divorce Than Parents of Sons
Since the 1980s, researchers have been studying families to try and understand what types of families are more likely to experience divorce over others; they found that parents of daughters are at a higher risk for divorce than sons. (1)
An ongoing study of over two million marriages in the Netherlands found that it is more nuanced than just parents with daughters are more likely to divorce. Their research shows that up until age 12, the gender of the children does not affect the divorce rate. Between the ages of 13 and 18, however, is where the change happens. The peak effect is at age 15. (1)
In this period, the chances of divorce are 10.7% for parents of boys and 11.3% for parents of daughters. Even more curiously, this discrepancy does not occur if the father of the teenager(s) grew up with sisters. (1)
Several American studies found specifically this is linked to the first-born child being a daughter versus a son. (2)
Why Are Parents of Daughters More Likely to Get Divorced?
Naturally, the reasoning behind this is hard to say definitively. The researchers do, however, have several theories that may explain this phenomenon.
1. Preference for Boys
Some studies suggest that the preference of having sons over daughters, particularly for some cultures, might contribute to the pattern. This is seen particularly in China, India, Korea, and Southeast Asia. (3)
2. Fathers Are More Committed to Staying for their Sons
Studies show that fathers spend more time with and are more involved with their sons’ lives. They are also more likely to stay and commit to a wife and son’s relationship over a wife and daughter. (4)
More research shows that if a couple becomes pregnant out of wedlock, they are more likely to get married before the baby is born if they know they are having a boy over a girl. (5) One theory is that fathers believe their sons are more vulnerable and need a male role model. (4)
3. The Difference in Attitude Toward Gender Roles and Parenting Strategies
While the other theories might offer some explanation, what the researchers really think is that the relationship between teenaged girls and their parents is to blame. (6)
While the teen-parent relationship can often be strained, the relationship between a teenaged father and her daughter can be complicated. This usually has to do with a disagreement between mom and dad on how to parent a teen girl. Again, much of this stems from learned gender roles. (1)
This is why fathers who grew up with sisters don’t seem to suffer the same fate. The thought is that these men have a deeper understanding of the female teenaged experience from watching their own sisters go through it. Compared to fathers without sisters, they tend to have a less-biased view on gender roles and what teenaged girls should and shouldn’t do.
Read: The Words That Reveal The End Of A Relationship, Months Before It Happens
Female Support and Divorce
Another part of this theory is how having daughters versus having sons affects the mother’s view on marriage and relationships. An American study showed that not only are parents of daughters more likely to get a divorce but that the divorced woman is less likely to remarry than a divorced woman of sons. (7)
Research shows that the woman initiates nearly three-quarters of divorces in the United States. (7) The researchers then asked themselves this question: Why are mothers of daughters more likely to divorce their husbands than mothers of sons? They came up with four plausible explanations:
- Adult sons who live at home add more workload to the mother than adult daughters. Adult daughters who live at home tend to decrease their workload because they are more likely to help out around the house. (7)
- Daughters offer their mothers more and better emotional and social support than sons do. This makes leaving their husband less daunting because the mother knows her daughter will support her through that transition. (7)
- Women who are thinking of divorcing their husbands are often afraid of being lonely. Mothers with daughters are less likely to feel lonely, again because of a daughters’ social support that they likely don’t get from sons. (7)
- Mothers of daughters are less likely to tolerate poor behavior from their husbands because they don’t want to teach their daughters to stay in bad relationships. These women want to show their daughters that women are strong and capable. Men are nice to have around, but under no circumstances should their daughter put up with bad behavior just for the sake of having a partner. (5)
Essentially, when a mother has at least one daughter, she needs her husband less because she knows she will be supported and have companionship via her daughter.
The Bottom Line
Lastly, and more importantly, just because you have a daughter doesn’t mean you will get a divorce, and vice versa with sons. What this research does highlight is that communication is key and education on gender stereotypes is essential.
If you have daughters, talk with your spouse in advance about how you want to parent those girls. Question yourself if that path looks different than how you are choosing to parent your sons.
Remember: All children, male or female, should help out around the house equally. It would be best to teach your sons and daughters equally about consent, respect, and right vs. wrong. Rules on parties, curfews, dating, and more should be equal. Both sons and daughters should be encouraged to chase their dreams, regardless of whether or not those dreams fit into the mold that society tries to fit us all into.
Keep Reading: Expert Says Teaching Swear Words To Your Kid Is Actually A Good Thing
- “Teenage Daughters as a Cause of Divorce.” Melbourne Institute. Jan Kabatek and David C. Ribar. September 27, 2017
- “Parents of teenage daughters more likely to divorce: study.” The Conversation. Jan Kabatek and David C. Ribar. September 2017.
- “Why is Son preference so persistent in East and South Asia? a cross-country study of China, India and the Republic of Korea.” T and F Online. Monica Das Gupta, et al. June 4, 2010.
- “Sons, Daughters, and Parental Behaviour.” Academic. Shelly Lundberg. October 2005.
- “Couples With Daughters More Likely to Divorce.” ABC News. COURTNEY HUTCHISON. October 5, 2010.
- “Do Daughters Really Cause Divorce? Stress, Pregnancy, and Family Composition.” Springer.Amar Hamoudi and Jenna Nobles. July 15, 2014.
- “Why Parents of Girls Divorce More.” Psychology Today. Anita E. Kelly Ph.D. August 29, 2010.