Why are Couples with Daughters More Likely to Divorce?

children of divorce“Do Daughters Cause Divorce?” asks the headline of The New York Times latest Motherlode column. It’s a provocative question and nobody seems to agree on the answer.

Just because parents of girls are 5 percent more likely to divorce than parents of boys doesn’t necessarily mean that girls cause divorce, does it? Depends on whom you ask.

“All over the world, boys hold marriages together, and girls break them up,” wrote Steven E. Landsburg in Slate in 2003. Landsburg concluded that “parents prefer boys—by enough that boys hold a lot of shaky marriages together.”

It’s just one theory to explain the 2003 findings of the economists Gordon Dahl (at the University of Rochester) and Enrico Moretti (at UCLA), who also found that the more daughters a couple has, the greater the effect. For instance, the parents of three girls are close to 10 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of three boys. 

But at Psychology Today, Anita E. Kelly has a different hypothesis. She concludes that women who have daughters are less likely to stay in unhappy marriages because they know they’ll never be lonely with a daughter. “They may be less willing to tolerate any bad behaviors from their husbands (and less willing to stay married) because they don’t need their husbands as much,” writes Kelly.

Amazingly, unmarried couples who are expecting a boy are more likely to get married than those who are find out they’re having a girl. Kelly explains this by saying that “a woman carrying a girl anticipates that she won’t need a husband.”

Not only do parents of girls divorce more, but divorced women with daughters are substantially less likely to remarry than divorced women with sons. Is it because they already have a soul mate? That doesn’t entirely make sense to me since we all know that mothers and daughters don’t always get along.

So what else can explain the statistical difference? Are girls so difficult to raise that it drives couples apart? Or do couples simply stay together for the sake of the boys?

As the mother of two girls, I should be concerned, but mostly, I’m baffled. Can you think of any reasons parents of girls are more likely to divorce than parents of boys?

Meanwhile, take this quiz and find out if you need divorce insurance.

More posts:

Girls Are Smarter Than Boys (Or at Least They Think They Are)

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Are Twinkies “All-Natural?” Sort Of.

Would You Spend $5,000 on Your Kid’s 1st Birthday Party?

Are School Lunches Making Kids Fat?

Should Parents Get Money for Helping Their Kids Learn?

Should Dads Take Paternity Leave?

Do You Need a Dinner Doula?

Five Worst Fast Food Kids Meals

Do Working Moms Take Advantage of Work-at-Home-Moms?

Should Bars Refuse to Serve Pregnant Women?

Photo: flickr/martintoy

Article Posted 6 years Ago
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