A new experimental study finds that women prefer and invest more in daughters, while men favor and invest more in sons.
“Our research may help people be better parents if we become aware of our unconscious biases toward different kinds of children,” says the study’s senior author Lee Cronk, an anthropology professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
The researchers conducted an online experiment to test the 1973 Trivers-Willard hypothesis, which predicted that wealthy parents would prefer and invest in sons, while poor parents would invest and favor daughters.
Participants completed a task that, based on previous research, fosters feelings of relative poverty or relative wealth. According to Cronk, the researchers then measured participants’ preferences for daughters and sons in several ways, including through:
- An opportunity to pledge money to a charity that largely supports girls or boys
- A test that discretely measures participants’ attitudes
- Gauging participants’ preferences for the sex of children the participants might adopt
- Assessing the sex ratio participants would prefer in their own offspring
While the experiment yielded little support for the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, the participants’ sex had a strong impact on what sexes they preferred for their offspring. Females strongly preferred daughters and investing in them, while males had a weaker though still significant preference for sons.
“These results may also have implications for rising income inequality and intergenerational social mobility,” the study’s authors write. “A recent study using the tax records of 40 million Americans between 1996 and 2012 showed that the single best predictor of lower intergenerational social mobility was having a single or divorced parent. Because most of these single parents are females, and females prefer daughters, we might expect even lower reduced intergenerational mobility for the sons of these single mothers.”
The study appears in the journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland and Arizona State University also contributed to the study.
Source: Rutgers University