Family gender bias: Study finds moms favor daughters, dads favor sons

TURKU, Finland — She may be daddy’s little girl, and he may be a mama’s boy, but a new study finds that at the end of the day, parents favor children of the same gender as them.

Researchers from Finland and the United States initially sought to find out whether parents’ gender preferences with their children were most impacted by money, status, education, or their own childhood environment. Yet despite all the potential factors that could mold favoritism, the results show that the greatest influence instead turns out to be whether or not the child is a boy or a girl.

For the study, the authors tested what’s known as the Trivers–Willard Hypothesis. The theory predicts that parents who are more financially sound will focus more resources towards their sons, and those in poorer conditions will invest in their daughters.

Researchers recruited 347 women and 423 men in the experiment, which also included tasks designed to make participants feel either rich or poor. Among the tasks, participants were asked to donate money that benefited one gender over another, and polled on whether they’d prefer to adopt a boy or a girl if going through an adoption process.

Participants were surveyed on their socioeconomic status, education level, health and marital status. They also completed a test that assessed whether they held a preference for a daughter or a son. Overall, the researchers found that no matter a parent’s status, they’ll still most strongly support and prefer a child of the same gender across the series of tests.

“Our study failed to show that the parents’ preferences for the offspring’s gender are affected by their status, wealth, education or childhood environment. Instead, parental preferences were best predicted by their sex,” explains the study’s lead author, Robert Lynch, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Turku, in a release. “Women from all socioeconomic backgrounds expressed implicit and explicit preferences for daughters: they chose to donate more to charities supporting girls and preferred to adopt girls. In contrast, men expressed consistent, albeit weaker, preferences for sons.”

The study results helped clear up often-contradictory previous findings on sex preferences for offspring, Lynch says.

Researchers from Rutgers University and Arizona State University in the US collaborated on this study, which was published in the journal Scientific Report.

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