This brief article caught my eye immediately, then caused me to drop my jaw. Apparently, research attempts to predict the likelihood of divorce based on the gender of a couple’s children.
In other words, researchers had previously concluded that when it comes to marriage, men are more likely to stick around if they have sons.
Color me confused, perplexed, nonplussed.
Fortunately, Psych Central is reporting research that challenges those earlier conclusions.
Gender Factors in Everything?
Consider this: “Does the Gender of Children Predict Divorce?”
Dr. Rick Nauert writes:
Researchers have known that in the U.S. couples with daughters are somewhat more likely to divorce than couples with sons… studies have argued that fathers prefer boys and are more likely to stay in marriages that produce sons.
Ouch! Seriously? Did I miss the memo? Has this really been pop culture wisdom and I’ve been utterly unaware?
I never even considered that gender of our children might play a role in divorce statistics. (Of course, I’m divorced and I have sons. Then again, we’re talking theoretical shades of likelihood.)
Have Daughters… Will Divorce?
Dr. Nauert goes on:
… new research from Duke University suggests something quite different may be at play.
Well, glad to hear that!
In fact, Psych Central reports that the new research underscores the hardiness of girls and women as compared to boys and men, as the new study points to the possibility that females may survive in utero (during stressful pregnancies) with a higher frequency than males. Noting that it is “relationship conflict” that is a predictor of divorce,
… more robust female embryos may be better able to withstand stresses to pregnancy, the new paper argues, including stresses caused by relationship conflict.
Therefore, it follows that more girls are born into couples with marital discord that are, for other reasons, more likely to divorce.
Adolescent Kids? Stressful
While I may have been shocked at the prevailing “wisdom” that girls are somehow more stressful on their parents’ marriages, this brief article sparked two thoughts.
First, adolescent girls and boys certainly do put different types of strain on their parents. I’m not trawling for data at the moment to support this opinion, but in my experience, I’ve observed the differing dynamics between teenage girls and their mothers (versus their fathers), and likewise teenage boys and their mothers (versus their fathers).
I might add that my sons were considerably easier on me than their female friends were on their mothers. That said, I repeat: The nature of the individual personalities, relationships and circumstances all play a vital role in that dynamic. This was my individual experience – and only that.
Kids Add Stress to Marriage
The second observation?
I was annoyed at what I perceive as (yet another) sexist bias in so-called social research – that daughters would increase the likelihood of marital strife – yet I’m pleased to see some indication, even implied, that children add to marital stress.
We don’t talk about this enough.
Sure, we discuss the fact that we have less time (for the relationship), we may have more financial strain (kids are expensive), and if we’re dealing with major issues to do with the health of a child, mental or physical, we may be willing to fess up to the additional pressures and worries all round.
But what about children, generally speaking? Can’t we admit there are more concerns than the logistical and financial issues? Our priorities may be conflicting, our emotions may often hover on overload, and disagreements as to handling of behavior, schooling, friendships, discipline – all of these can put a strain on the parents’ relationship.
Kids are hard on marriage. Why can’t we say so?
We love our kids, we want our kids, but can we admit that some of the time we’re fighting about them? Isn’t this really an issue of values and consensus between the parents?
All the more reason that resolving conflict and communicating well are essential to the health of our relationships.
Divorce these days?
It’s not the stuff of 1960s rom-coms like “Divorce, American-Style.” State divorce laws have changed enormously, wives-mothers now work routinely, and our children’s lives are far more complex as are ours. Likewise, our parenting approach has evolved. It is more hands-on (if possible), far more scrutinized (by institutions as well as strangers), and yes, potentially, a source of friction between parents.
Mothers (especially) seem to constantly compare themselves to some ideal, and feel they come up short.
Personally, I’d be far more interested in research that looks at the number of children in the marriage and household income.
Three children are far more stressful than one; everything is more stressful when the money isn’t rolling in and you have a family to provide for.