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Daughters and Divorce Myth Biologically Debunked

Update Date: Jul 16, 2014 04:42 PM EDT

New findings have debunked the common myth that daughters are more likely to cause divorce. 

Statistics show that marriages are more likely to end in divorce when couples have daughters. While these numbers are often interpreted as evidence that daughters cause divorce, new findings from Duke University suggest something different.

Numerous studies have suggested that fathers are more likely to stay in marriages that produce sons because fathers produce boys. Therefore, men are more likely to leave marriages that produce daughters.

However, new research reveals another way of interpreting the numbers. Researchers argue that girls are stronger than boys, even in the womb. Therefore, they were more likely to survive pregnancies strained by troubled marriages.

"Many have suggested that girls have a negative effect on the stability of their parents' union," co-author Amar Hamoudi, an economist at Duke University said in a news release. "We are saying: 'Not so fast.' "

Hamoudi and co-author Jenna Nobles, a University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist believe that the hardiness of female embryos could explain why daughters are more likely to come from broken families.

Throughout history, girls and women have generally been shown to be hardier than their male counterparts. For example, males die in greater proportions than girls at every age from birth to age 100. Previous epidemiological studies also suggest that the female survival advantage begins in the womb. Researchers argue that the these facts support the current statistics because it suggests that female hardiness result in the survival of embryos that are better able to withstand stresses to pregnancy, including those caused by relationship conflict.

Furthermore, the latest study also reveals the sex of children born to couples could be predicted by couples' level of relationship conflict before conception. The findings revealed that women who reported higher levels of marital conflict were significantly more likely to mother daughters, rather than sons.

"Girls may well be surviving stressful pregnancies that boys can't survive," Hamoudi said. "Thus girls are more likely than boys to be born into marriages that were already strained."

Rather than beginning at birth, researchers said future population studies should consider the months before birth.

"It's time for population studies to shine a light on the period of pregnancy," Hamoudi said. "The clock does not start at birth."

The findings are published in the journal Demography

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