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?
Our new data analysis finds parents with daughters are slightly more likely to separate than those with sons, but only during the teenage years. And it’s the strained relationship between parents and their daughters that might bring a couple to the breaking point.
Our working paper studied more than 2 million marriages in The Netherlands over ten years and shows that divorce risks increase with children’s ages until they reach adulthood — with parents of teenage daughters at greater risk. However, this risk disappears in cases where the fathers themselves grew up with a sister.
Evidence on daughters and divorce
Previous research examined the link between marital strains and children’s gender, but it’s always been a challenging area.
Several studies in the US have found that parents with firstborn girls are slightly more likely to divorce than parents with firstborn boys. However, other US studies have challenged this finding, and until now, there was no evidence from other developed countries showing that daughters strained marriages.
Our research examined registry data from The Netherlands. Compared with datasets used in most previous studies, Dutch records are very comprehensive. They allow us to look at exact dates of weddings, births, and divorces, and delve deeper than previous studies, which relied on self-reports and people’s recollections.
More importantly, the data allow us to examine the gender of couples’ children, and just how long after their birth the couples separated.
We found that up until the age of 12, there are no differences between the divorce risks faced by parents of boys and girls. However, between the ages 13 and 18, parents of firstborn girls divorce more than parents of firstborn boys.
The odds of divorce within this period are 10.7% for parents of boys, and 11.3% for parents of…