When I first read that startling statistic, I felt rather guilty for my own status as the firstborn daughter in my parents' marriage. Was I an underlying secret source of tension for them, a ticking time bomb just waiting to implode their happy union? But more than that — because I am a grown woman, after all — was the sudden fear that gripped my heart when I realized that my husband and I have also have a very precious firstborn daughter.
So does that mean we are doomed?
Although the statistics showed that couples with firstborn daughters have a slightly increased risk of getting divorced (the numbers hovered around 5 percent), the theories of why exactly that was varied tremendously. Some speculated that couples wanted the security of a boy as they aged, others ventured into the stress that a girl can cause (offense totally taken) and still others theorized that fathers simply bond more with boys, so therefore they invested more in the relationship (um, OK).
But as it turns out, there's more to the picture than the underlying message that girls are problematic.
A new study found, shockingly enough, that it's not always the girl's fault. What researchers found is that in general, female babies in utero are more likely to survive a stressful environment — which could include a volatile relationship.
According to the study, "Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), we find that relationship conflict predicts the sex of children born after conflict was measured; conflict also predicts subsequent divorce."
Or in other words —
Daughters don't cause the divorces, but they are more likely to survive being born to a couple who is already having problems and is primed and ready to divorce. The male babies simply might not be able to hack the stressful environment in utero, fail to survive and therefore be less likely to even be born into a crumbling relationship in the first place.
So those of us with firstborn daughters or those of us who happen to be firstborn daughters can all breathe a big sigh of relief. And instead of placing blame if we have been witness to an unfortunate break up, we can all congratulate ourselves for surviving that stressful time in the womb.
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