Do daughters cause divorces?

Charlie - posted on 01/02/2011 ( 26 moms have responded )

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Economists noticed in 2003 that married couples with daughters have a greater chance of getting divorced than those with sons. And among pregnant unmarried couples, those having boys are more likely to tie the knot. For years, researchers assumed boys made marriages last, but a new theory flips that around: What if daughters are better at breaking up bad marriages? Here's a guide to the puzzling daughter-divorce conundrum:

What are the numbers?
Eonomists Gordon Dahl (University of Rochester) and Enrico Moretti (UCLA) analyzed three million U.S. birth and marriage records, and found that married couples with one daughter are almost 5 percent more likely to split up, versus those with one son. And the effect grew more pronounced with more offspring: Parents of three girls are about 10 percent more likely to divorce than those with three boys. The numbers were even starker in other countries.

How did the researchers explain it?
The (male) economists focused on why boys might be an asset to marriages. Some of the theories, as laid out by Steven Landsburg in Slate: Men value sons more and are therefore more likely to stick around (or commit to sticking around) with a boy in the house; sons are more apt to fall apart emotionally when a father leaves, preventing him from doing so; or parents are held together by the belief that a boy needs a male role model in the house. "If you want to stay married," Landsburg concludes, "three of the most ominous words you'll ever hear are 'It's a girl.'"

Why are those theories flawed?
Keep in mind, says Notre Dame psychologist Anita E. Kelly in Psychology Today, 73 percent of divorces are instigated by the wife. So the question shouldn't be: "Why are fathers more likely to stick around for sons?" Rather, she says, we should ask: "Why are mothers of daughters divorcing more than mothers of sons?"

Does she offer any ideas?
Several, but they all boil down to: Mothers with daughters "don't need their husbands as much." She points to studies showing that sons "add to the daily workload of the parents," while daughters decrease it, and that females are better at offering social support than males. Add to these facts that daughters are more likely to stick around, Kelly says, and you can plausibly theorize that if a woman has a daughter, she knows she'll "never be lonely or without help," and is therefore more likely to exit a bad marriage.

Is that a new idea?
Not entirely. The Baltimore Sun's Susan Reimer points to an old proverb: "My son's my son till he hath got him a wife. But my daughter's my daughter all the days of her life."

Is either set of theories persuasive?
Looking at her husband, daughter, and son, Reimer says, Kelly's thesis "sounds about right to me." But Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory says that both sets of explanations are a little dehumanizing. "It's always disconcerting when researchers use percentages and averages to talk about complex human beings," she says. And while "these sorts of faceless generalizations about gender are ... useful to a certain point," they should be taken with "a grain of salt."


Do you think this holds any merit ?

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26 Comments

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Jane - posted on 04/01/2012

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I was just looking around this site. It's funny I came upon this. My daughter is 16 and has lived with a father who was addicted to prescribed pain pills. The problem has been getting steadily worse the last couple of years. She is the one who convinced me to leave him, that we could do it on our own. I looked at the kind of example he was being to her. I finally did kick him out and she thanked me. We are not divorced yet, he is still begging to come home. I told him to go to rehab first, but he says he can't, because he can't live without any pain meds at all. So, as soon as I am financially able, I will be filing for divorce.She didn't cause it by any means, but she encouraged me to see that I didn't have to live like that.

[deleted account]

I am sorry but if my father had left I think I would have had more of am emotional break down than my younger brother. I am daddy's little girl. That being said I would have had the same break down if my mother had left. I really don't think that the gender of your child(ren) has anything to do with you getting divorced. My parents were married for almost 36 1/2years before my mother passed away. My Aunt and Uncle (who also have 1 daughter and 1 son) were married for almost 48yrs before he passed. It's almost as if they are saying it is the kids fault. What about the couples who don't have kids?

Julie - posted on 07/05/2011

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that is the biggest pile of BS i have ever heard. to blame your child for your divorce is just pathetic. daughters do not cause the divorce it si the married couple in the first place that cannot reolve issues more civilised without another world war brreaking out or the man that cant keep his pants on or the woman for that matter. there are many issues that lead to divorce but to blame the kids is just low and down right nasty

Charlie - posted on 07/05/2011

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The way I read it wasnt putting the blame on the children more so putting the blame on the parents dependent on the childs sex.

IMO the article points the blame at shifting attitude and need of the parents.

Sal - posted on 07/05/2011

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i left my sons father and married my daughters father, so i guess i just like to be different.....i left my sons dad because i didn;t want the cycle of abuse to go to a third (that i know of) generation as sons who wittness abuse are more likely to abuse, if i;d had a daughter i would of left because girls of abusive marriages are more likely to be abuse too, so no difference to the outcome because of the sex of the child...

[deleted account]

Plain and simple..no child is EVER the cause of a divorce.
Also girls births are in higher numbers than boy births.Maybe thats why.I don't no.

Yalana - posted on 07/04/2011

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I have 3 sons and they most def. did NOT cause my divorce...my ex did all on his own! I felt my kids were and still are worth more than a loveless, abusive marriage. That's why my bf and I are in no hurry to marry each other...he just got divorced recently, too, after his ex-wife aborted his child. If an adult blames the divorce on the child(ren), that adult needs help.

[deleted account]

Children do not cause divorce. If there is an issue w/ the kids..... it's the parents job to work through it.

All I can add from my personal experience is that my ex left when our son was born, but it had nothing to do w/ him either.

Tara - posted on 01/03/2011

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If there is any merit to it at all I would say it has more to do with mothers not wanting their daughters to grow up with a poor male role model, probably due to having had to live with him and knowing how he may/may not treat women, perhaps these women (or some of them) don't want their daughters to look for a man with similar qualities, and by divorcing these men are sending a message to their daughters that that kind of treatment is unacceptable. I don't know why they wouldn't do the same for their sons though. And perhaps I am way off base, but I have 3 girls and two older sons with my ex, I left because I didn't want any of them (especially my girls) to grow up thinking our relationship was normal.

[deleted account]

I don't think so, although it may be worth further investigation as to why more parents of girls divorce than parents of boys, maybe the mothers are more hormonal/ moody due to having larger doses of female hormones in her body during pregnancy? IDK if that actually makes a difference though, I'll investigate if I get a chance.

Bonnie - posted on 01/03/2011

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I have always been told children do not cause divorces, but who knows. My mom would agree with this thread. My parents are not divorced, but they are not always happy either (they fight a lot and threaten eachother a lot ugh) . Somehow my mom always manages to find a way to put the blame on me :-(. I haven't done anything. My mother is nuts LOL.

Mother - posted on 01/03/2011

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Daughters don't cause divorce. People can allow issues with daughters to cause divorce if they don't communicate.

[deleted account]

Do daughters cause divorces...

I certainly hope not, because she's the reason we got married in the first place. But I can almost understand it. My poor husband, he has enough trouble dealing with MY hormones. I hope to God he can handle his daughter's as well.

Lindsay - posted on 01/03/2011

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I'd say the most valid part of this article is the last line where it says to take this with "a grain of salt." The entire thing lost all merit when it said that men value sons over daughters. I have never seen that to be the case. Now had they said that daughters can cause a higher stress level than sons, that'd be a little more believable.

Dana - posted on 01/03/2011

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LOL, none of the studies say that people with boys don't get divorced nor are they saying all marriages with daughters end in divorce.

Jodi - posted on 01/03/2011

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Jenn has a really good point. I kicked my lazy ass, abusive, ex out and we only had a son. You really do have to wonder about these studies.....

Jenn - posted on 01/03/2011

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I don't know - I left my "husband" and we only had a son. Then again he was a lying, lazy, bigamist, piece of shit.

Dana - posted on 01/03/2011

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I think both theories make some sense.
And they're talking about bad marriages (to begin with), breaking up faster/easier with daughters, not just any old marriage.

Iris - posted on 01/03/2011

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With two daughters and STILL a husband, I'm not even going to look at other replies before I put mine in here.

I love my husband and need him in so many ways that my daughters can not provide. I love them dearly and give them all the time they need. But without him my live would be empty, and I guess he feels the same way.

I think that if your relationship is built on love for each other and you let it keep on growing, then you wont become statistics. But if you forget your partner and devote all your time in the girls then you will automatically fail.

With a man wanting boys and not having one and deciding to leave because of it.... good riddance, you just cleared the idiot out of your life.

Stifler's - posted on 01/03/2011

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LOL I find it hard to believe that this is a serious study! Although a lot of people I know with girls reckon that they were WAY more moody and fought with their husband more when they were pregnant with a girl as opposed to the pregnancy with their son.

♏*PHOENIX*♏ - posted on 01/03/2011

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WOW really!!! Why is it always something negative about women…throughout history one thing after the other…SMDH

I think it’s just a coincidence that more couples with more/all girls get a divorce…

I do think that 82-92% of men want boys….but when they have their daughters they would have it no other way….

I just had a boy and my hubby wants to try for a girl…he said this!!
I’m not ready( our boy is only 9 months) so I said don’t you dare touch me with a ten foot pole…keep that worm in your pants!!

[deleted account]

Children NEVER cause divorce! Sexism aside this is nuts it is never a child's fault that the parents have issues and call it quits such a shame that people actually have the balls to blame their child for their own problems I don't care if you have a boy or a girl it's the parents' decision to get a divorce the kids are innocent. Children add stress was no one informed of this prior, marriages are difficult to begin with and children add more to the plate but the sex of the child has no relevance.Every child needs their parents, both of them, regardless of the sex of the child. The only exception is if one or both of the parents are incapable of their responsabilities for some reason, toxic rolemodels, or God forbid abusive. Hope I'm not offending anyone here but I feel that is just sick that some people can blame their children for their circumstances be it divorce, financial strain, mental health breakdowns, addiction, or anything else like that. My first born is a boy and his father left. It says nothing about my son and everything about the father and I. Him for being the irresponsible man-child he is, me for being irresponsible with who I decided to have a baby with. Nothing about the failed relationship is in anyway a result of the baby we produced. Just further proof that more and more parents are refusing to accept the consequences of their own actions, how sad.

[deleted account]

Ah ha! I knew it! My parents tried to reassure me otherwise, but I always knew they divorced because it was my fault! J/K! Interesting correlations and interesting theory, I don't know about how much merit to give to it though. I wonder if; as well as looking at father/son, mother/daughter connections leading to divorce, they also considered the different parenting challenges that come with raising daughters vs. sons. I don't know, just seems like there are too many variables in every family dynamic to attribute cause of divorce solely to gender of the child.

Jodi - posted on 01/03/2011

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Nothing would surprise me with daughters......but I sure hope not :D

I also like the comment about the family with 3 daughters - I know someone with 4 daughters, most of whom are now teens, and he just hides in his man cave once a month. It has nothing to do with mum not needing her husband and more about him thinking it's scary as shit to be around. So yeah, I can see why some people might divorce, LOL.

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