Study of the Day: Why Men Want Sons and Women Want Daughters

New research from Queen's University shows that people have an intrinsic desire to leave something of themselves behind for the future.

main  Yuri Arcurs shutterstock_80171986.jpg

PROBLEM: Probably for the same reasons that favoritism is considered taboo, gender neutrality is the cultural norm for prospective parents in most developed countries. Still, do would-be moms and dads secretly wish for babies of a particular gender?

METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by M.T. Higginson asked more than 2,300 Queen's University faculty, students, staff, and alumni if they had any preference about the gender of their firstborn child, the gender ratio of their offspring, or the gender of an only child in an online survey.

RESULTS: There was a significant offspring gender preference in all cases, and the direction of the bias depended on the respondent's gender. That is, men on average preferred sons while women preferred daughters.

CONCLUSION: Strong gender-based biases remain, even in modern societies where gender neutrality seems to be standard.

IMPLICATION: People may have an intrinsic desire to leave something of themselves behind for the future, explains co-author Lonnie Aasrssen. He says in a statement: "Our results show that men today envision this through sons while women visualize it through daughters."

SOURCE: The full study, "Gender Bias in Offspring Preference: Sons Still a Higher Priority, But Only in Men -- Women Prefer Daughters" (PDF), is published in the journal Open Anthropology.

Image: Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock.

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Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

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