Do mothers favor daughters and fathers favor sons?

October 4, 2017, Society for Consumer Psychology
Credit: Vera Kratochvil/Public Domain

Imagine a parent who is shopping and has a few moments to spare before heading home. If the parent has both a son and daughter but time to buy only one surprise gift, who will receive the gift?

Findings from a new study available online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggest that a mother would have a high likelihood of buying something for her daughter, while a father would choose a gift for his son. While more than 90 percent of people in the study said they treat of different genders equally, researchers discovered that most parents unwittingly favor the child of the same sex when it comes to spending money.

"We found that the effect was very robust in four different experiments and across cultures," says researcher Kristina Durante, a professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey. "The bias toward investing in same-gendered children occurs because women identify more with and see themselves in their , and the same goes for men and sons."

In one experiment, the researchers recruited participants who had a child of each gender. The participants were told that they would receive a treasury bond of $25 for one of their children, and they could choose who received it. The majority of mothers chose to give the bond to their daughters, while the fathers preferred their sons. To test if the gender bias occurred in a different culture, the researchers conducted the experiment among parents from India, and the results were the same.

Participants also favored children of their own gender when deciding who would receive more in the family will. The researchers conducted another experiment at a zoo where participants with a child of each gender were given one raffle ticket after filling out a survey. They had to decide whether to enter the raffle for a girl's back-to-school backpack or a boy's backpack. Mothers chose the girl's backpack 75 percent of the time and fathers picked the boy's backpack 87 percent of the time.

The findings have implications for children as they are growing up in different families, Durante says. If mothers make most of the decisions about a family's spending, then daughters may receive more resources such as healthcare, inheritance and investments than their brothers. If fathers are in control of the family finances, then sons may be more likely to benefit in the long-run. This unconscious bias may also have ramifications far beyond the family, Durante says.

"If a woman is responsible for promotion decisions in the workplace, female employees may be more likely to benefit. The reverse may be true if men are in charge of such decisions," says Durante. "If this influences decisions related to charitable giving, college savings, promotions and politics, then it can have profound implications and is something we can potentially correct going forward," says Durante.

This study will appear in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in January, 2018.

Explore further: Parents of teenage daughters more likely to divorce, says study

More information: www.journals.elsevier.com/jour … nd-more-on-daughters

Related Stories

Parents of teenage daughters more likely to divorce, says study

September 27, 2017
Sullen exchanges and broken curfews are part of life for parents of teenagers, but could this period also be a stress-test for parents' marriages?

Fathers' brains respond differently to daughters than sons

May 25, 2017
Fathers with toddler daughters are more attentive and responsive to those daughters' needs than fathers with toddler sons are to the needs of those sons, according to brain scans and recordings of the parents' daily interactions ...

Mothers nurture emotions in girls over boys, new study finds

November 12, 2014
A new study published today in The British Journal of Developmental Psychology has found that conversations mothers have with their daughters tend to contain more emotional words and content, than the conversations they have ...

How stress affects saving and spending habits

November 14, 2016
Feeling overwhelmed? Stressed about work, a family illness or election season? It turns out that worry and anxiety can have an impact on your wallet.

Recommended for you

Study of 800 million tweets finds distinct daily cycles in our thinking patterns

June 20, 2018
Our mode of thinking changes at different times of the day and follows a 24-hour pattern, according to new findings published in PLOS ONE. University of Bristol researchers were able to study our thinking behaviour by analysing ...

Mind wandering is fine in some situations, study says

June 20, 2018
It's a common experience for most students. You're sitting in a lecture that covers material you already know, and before long your mind drifts and you become occupied with thoughts of what you'll do over the weekend, or ...

Opioid overdose survivors face continued health challenges, higher death rate

June 20, 2018
Survivors of opioid overdose are at great risk of dying in the year after overdose, but the deaths are not always caused by drug use, a new study reveals. In addition to succumbing to drug use, survivors were much more likely ...

Around the world, people have surprisingly modest notions of the 'ideal' life

June 20, 2018
It seems reasonable that people would want to maximize various aspects of life if they were given the opportunity to do so, whether it's the pleasure they feel, how intelligent they are, or how much personal freedom they ...

Say cheese! Why a toothy smile makes it easier for you to be identified

June 19, 2018
A fulsome smile in a photo makes it easier for people to identify the individual, say researchers at the University of York.

Mental health declining among disadvantaged American adults

June 19, 2018
American adults of low socioeconomic status report increasing mental distress and worsening well-being, according to a new study by Princeton University and Georgetown University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.