Couples With Daughters More Likely to Divorce

This phenomenon was revealed in a research study conducted in 2003 by economists Gordon Dahl and Enrico Moretti. The study indicated that parents of a daughter are almost five percent more likely to divorce than the parents of a son. Parents who had three daughters were almost ten percent more likely to divorce than the parents of three sons.

This pattern continued in second marriages as well. Divorced women with daughters were much less likely to remarry than divorced women with sons. Further, when divorced women with daughters do remarry, their second marriages are less likely to survive than the second marriages of women with sons.

Finally, unmarried couples who are expecting a girl are less likely to get married than couples expecting a boy.

While the researchers essentially concluded that daughters are a liability when it comes to marriage, Dr. Anita Kelly disagrees with this interpretation.

Dr. Kelly, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, thinks the researchers may have overlooked some important facts when reaching their conclusions. She believes the findings support her theory that women with daughters are more likely to divorce because they believe their daughters will provide them with support and companionship.

For example, Dr. Kelly points out that 73% of divorces in the United States involve the woman leaving her husband. Further, adult daughters living at home decrease the workload of the parents, while adult sons living at home increase the workload of the parents. Finally, a major human motivation is the avoidance of loneliness and females provide more and better social support than males.

Essentially, a woman may be less likely to put up with problems in her marriage when she has a daughter that will provide her with support. This would also explain why unmarried couples expecting a daughter are less likely to marry, as a woman who knows she is having a daughter may feel less of a need for a husband.

Dr. Kelly hopes to empirically test her theory and is working on obtaining a grant for her research. 

Source: The Toronto Star "Daughters give women freedom to divorce, new theory says" 9/8/10

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