10.0Roberta Sue Fay

Study tries to explain why couples with daughters are more likely to divorce

Research suggests reason may be due to resiliency of female embryos.

Researchers have known for some time now, based on census data, that married couples with a first-born daughter were more likely to divorce than those with a first-born son. Over the years, plenty of scientists and academics have tried to explain why there may be a relationship between a child’s gender and the likelihood of his or her parents getting divorced. A new study from Duke University says the reason has less to do with daughters and more to do with the state of a marriage before a child’s birth. The study says that a strained marriage is more likely to lead to a daughter being born since female embryos are more likely to survive a stressful pregnancy than male ones, according to Time.

Daughters and divorce

In 2003, according to ABC News, researchers found that couples with a first-born daughter were five percent likelier to divorce than couples with a first-born son. When couples had up to three daughters, then they were 10 percent likelier to divorce. Since those statistics were taken from census data of three million adults, the phenomenon could not be dismissed as a simple statistical anomaly.

Over the years, researchers have offered various explanations for the phenomenon. Some contended that fathers were more likely to stay in a marriage that produced a son because they didn’t want their sons left without a male role model. Others claimed that daughters offered more support to mothers who were in stressful marriages, thus giving those mothers the support system they needed to leave.

Explanation begins before birth

According to a study from Duke University, however, the real explanation may have more to do with what happens before the first child is even born. Instead of daughters causing marital stress, the reverse may be true: marital stress is more likely to lead to the birth of a daughter.

Researchers claim that women who reported being in relationships with a lot of stress are more likely to later give birth to girls. Since such marriages were already suffering, they were also more likely to end in divorce afterwards. The reason high-stress marriages lead to more female births may simply be because of the so-called “female survival advantage.” It has long been known that males suffer a higher mortality rate throughout life; now, researchers are saying that that advantage may apply before birth as well, with female embryos better able to survive a stressful pregnancy than a male embryo.

Divorce and family law

The above story offers some information that many individuals are likely to find interesting, but it also touches on how many people in stressful marriages may be considering taking steps toward divorce. Anybody who is considering or currently going through a divorce should contact a qualified family law attorney today. With experienced legal guidance, clients will have the help they need to make sure their divorce is handled in a compassionate and efficient manner.


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