Gender matters


Sons are more likely to lead parents into marriage

Brittney Jackson of Chicago's South Side has a 3--month--old son, Nasir, but isn't married to his father. She says they might be married if the relationship was better. But, according to a study from the University of Washington, Jackson is more likely to marry the father than she would be if she had given birth to a daughter. Indeed, Jackson says, the father of her baby was more supportive after he found out she was having a boy. "Only a man can teach a man how to be a man," she says, adding that fathers don't "want another man to teach their son how to be a man." Jackson's theory is in line with the results of a study conducted by Shelly Lundberg, economics professor at the University of Washington. Lundberg theorizes that there are two possible motivations for women being more inclined to marry the father of their sons. One is male driven, the other female driven. Men, she says, tend to believe that sons have more value, therefore it's easier for the mother of a son to attract a spouse. Women, she says, think it's important to have a father figure in their son's life—so they might "settle for less" in a husband to ensure there is a man living in the home. Again mirroring the findings of the study, Jackson says marriage wouldn't matter if she had given birth to a girl because she could teach her daughter "to be a young lady and to respect herself." Lundberg studied almost 500 women, looking for a connection between a child's gender and the likelihood of marriage. Mothers of 21.6 percent of the boys married the father of the child, compared to only 15.2 percent of the girls. The study found no connection between marriage and the gender of the child if the mother marries a man who is not the child's father. In addition, Lundberg found it takes fathers of daughters longer to marry the mothers. Sons were, on average, 3.4 years old when their parents married; daughters were, on average, 4.6 years old.

-- Jennifer McGilvray, Medill News Service


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