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Friday, November 18, 2016

Fact or Fiction: Firstborn Daughter = First Signpost on the Road to Divorce?

To celebrate my forthcoming series of empirical family law articles, my next few blog posts will use my data to prove or disprove salacious news headlines about family law.  My data is based on 109 divorce cases filed by couples with children in Marion County, Indiana (which includes Indianapolis) for 3 months in 2008.

Let’s start with the headline story that couples are more likely to divorce if they have a firstborn daughter instead of son.  At first, this caused speculation that daughters were less valued and less likely to keep people in a marriage.  Then, a study suggested that, in fact, female embryos were hardier than male ones, being able to withstand a stressed mother due to a tumultuous marriage.  Thus, girls were more likely to be born to a bad relationship already on the road to divorce.

So, is it true?  Was I able to replicate that more divorces occur when the firstborn is female?

Yes, indeed.  62 of the 109 divorcing couples in my data had a firstborn daughter and 36 had a firstborn son (although I am missing gender data in 11 cases).  Among these 36 divorcing couples who had a firstborn son, 14 had a daughter as the 2nd or 3rd child.

So, having your firstborn be a daughter sure seems to indicate a higher chance of divorce.

Posted by Margaret Ryznar on November 18, 2016 at 07:42 PM | Permalink

Comments

Despite of child's gender, what about statistics that relates child-free families? Or those couples who decided to separate before thye've got pregnant? The process of divorce is rather simplified during the recent centuries, people divorce online or file for divorce just of teh lack of experience of family life troubleshooting even before their child is planned. What about statistics of coupley who remain together? What if their marriages are built on firstborn daughters?

Posted by: Vicky J. Rene | Feb 17, 2020 3:49:51 AM

That's a good point, to look more closely at incomes. A lot of the headlines have suggested that marriage is now for rich, college-educated, white people (who often have "egalitarian" marriages broadly defined), because other demographic groups either divorce at a very high rate or do not marry in the first place. I took a quick peak at my data, and it's a mixed bag about who's the higher income earner in the marriage. However, I would need data of those who are still married for a comparison to the divorced cohort, so I'm afraid I can't prove anything without getting my hands on more data. But, I should indeed pay more attention to income, because I agree it can tell us a bit of what's going on.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Nov 21, 2016 5:26:10 AM

Clarification: I am for equality, i.e., equal pay, but I do think it brings adverse consequences for marriage because as women rise up the ranks and become successful, the pool of remaining men who are more successful drops and these men cannot find wives willing to marry them. The successful women also have a harder time so it becomes a vicious cycle.

Posted by: Perhaps | Nov 20, 2016 8:54:31 AM

I think another avenue for you to explore is whether a higher income wife will also correlate with a higher divorce rate (and the 1st daughter). While I was all for equality in my youthful naivete, after observing many families and close friends divorce - and as you correctly note, the vast majority were initiated by the woman, I have concluded that what I thought was "old fashioned" is true, namely, women do respect men who earn more and have more power. Most really do look down on a husband who earns less. In law firms when there are many flings/affairs and I observed that women always have them with higher ranking males - no this is not harassment - these are fully consensual and sometimes leads to a break-up of an existing marriage (sometimes on both sides) and the affair participants actually end up getting married. What I am getting at is I think there is something to the fact women want and respect a powerful male. This is not something I was raised with believing nor was it something I believed in when I was younger but...I have come to believe it 100%. Nothing scientific just my observations in the legal/business and friendship worlds. Perhaps your future papers will examine this interesting perspective. If it is true, and I leave it to experts such as yourself to validate or invalidate, the ramifications on society are enormous.

Posted by: Perhaps | Nov 20, 2016 8:50:48 AM

Yes, I have seen similar theories in the press (that women are embolded to leave a marriage they wouldn't want for their daughters, etc.), and it is consistent with the fact that far more women file for divorce than men (next post), but it is inconsistent with the fact that being a single parent is much harder for both the parent and the child.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Nov 20, 2016 6:26:43 AM

Yes, I have seen similar theories in the press (that women are embolded to leave a marriage they wouldn't want for their daughters, etc.), and it is consistent with the fact that far more women file for divorce than men (next post), but it is inconsistent with the fact that being a single parent is much harder for both the parent and the child.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Nov 20, 2016 6:26:43 AM

Maybe feminist women want or prefer a baby girl and once this is achieved the husband's utility is reduced. He served his job and now he is no longer beeded.

Posted by: Perhaps | Nov 19, 2016 10:42:32 AM

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