Are Sons Better than Daughters? Parent Preferences Explained

Being an expectant parent is an exciting time. Wondering whom the child is going to look like and what their interests are going to be is a fun way to pass the time. Many people go into a pregnancy, preferring a son or a daughter.

While preferring one to the other is very common, sons are not better than daughters, and likewise, daughters are not better than sons. A lot of the desire to have a son in many cultures comes from men and women’s roles in society; many times these roles are misunderstood.

If you are an expectant parent or just a curious individual who wants to learn more about why some people prefer sons to daughters, read on. We will also discuss how this is changing in the United States, as more parents would like to have daughters than they did before.

Traditional Reasons for Wanting a Son Vs A Daughter

There is no way to conceive one sex rather than the other naturally. This may change as fertility research advances, but when a baby is conceived outside of interference in the lab, the father’s sperm contains the chromosome that determines the sex of the baby. It is purely random what sex a baby is.

Religious Foundations Against Medical Selection Of Daughters vs Sons

Many religious communities reject attempts by medical researchers to sway the odds in one direction or the other. The marital act is seen as part of the human design, so trying to insert the human will over the original intent is outside of the boundaries. This is not the case in all religions, but is true in some of the world’s largest.

Traditionally the Catholic Church is not only against selection of the sex of children, but any tampering with fertility in any way. The design of what the Church terms as the ‘marital embrace’ is divine in origin and purpose. The ability to have a child and having a son vs a daughter is not in our purview to decide, according to the traditional Catholic faith.

In Islam there are similar mandates against tampering with the fertility of the mother and father. The children must come strictly from the bond of marriage, and it must be the genetic material only of each biological parent, using the uterus of the mother.

Both of these major world religions see whether we have sons or daughters in the hands of God and not man. God alone determines, no matter what preferences the father or mother may have.

Historical Leanings Toward Sons Over Daughters

Anyone who has studied history knows that boys were traditionally preferred over girls. There are many contexts for this, but generally this was true in situations from royalty, to the wealthy merchant, to the poorest of farmers.

Royalty And Historical Preference For Boys

There is a general understanding due to the way names and lineages were kept throughout history that it was advantageous for royalty in many cultures and countries to have sons over daughters. Some positions of authority and offices were strictly for men only.

Many times the sons of royals would also serve in the military as a prerequisite for holding titles, commanding military forces, or ruling in general. Daughters could become de facto leaders in the absence of a man, but this was usually until the office was properly filled.

Traditionally sons could: 

  • Inherit property and businesses 
  • Continue the family name 
  • In the case of royalty or nobility, inherit titles 

Henry VIII of England went through many wives and created a whole new religion in his quest to have a son who would become king. Yet, it was his illegitimate daughter Elizabeth that eventually held the throne. Irony is a cruel mistress in more ways than one.

Sons Seen As Laborers – Daughters Seen As Dependents

In poorer families, especially in agricultural regions, sons were seen as strong laborers for the future survival of the family. They were groomed into the ‘family business’ of labor and working hard for a living off the land.

Girls were very important to the running of these farms, but without the labor that directly bore fruit from the soil through tilling, planting, and harvesting, the family could not survive. Boys are more uniquely adapted to this form of labor.

Daughters needed to have dowries and a suitable husband to support them had to be found. This led to the leaning towards boys for utilitarian purposes. Parents loved their daughters no less than parents today.

It was simply a fact of life that sons helped support the families in ways that many girls could not. Parental desires gave way to utilitarian concerns at times swaying their desires.

Today’s Roles Are In Some Ways Different For Sons And Daughters

Times and even some laws have changed, and women are now allowed to: 

  • Inherit property 
  • Be independently employed outside of the family 
  • Even become queen ahead of their younger brothers in a few monarchies 

Despite these cultural and legal changes and the fact that it is not acceptable to relegate daughters to the status of mere dependent today, there are still a significant number of people, who would rather have a son than a daughter. This is more true in some cultures around the world than in others.

But is all of this change all for the good? With the role of the father being eroded and women being told they don’t need men to have a family, society as a whole has suffered. We are in the unique position of not simply uplifting women in our cultures, but degrading men to accomplish it.

Does this mean the sons are more important than daughters then? Of course not, but with the increased downplaying of men and sons in the government, media, and schools our society has seen and will see disastrous effects. We don’t need to do this to support our girls.

When fathers are portrayed as unnecessary, simply overgrown children, and in need of complete changes in our society, our sons are watching. They grow up not holding a father’s role in high esteem.

Here are just some of the effects of the fatherlessness that is the result.

  • Boys without fathers in the home are two times as likely to become incarcerated according to research.
  • 70% of all children in juvenile detention centers are from homes without fathers.
  • 63% of all teen suicides come from fatherless homes.
  • 83% of all behavior disorders come from homes with no father.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

One of the statistics that many try to hide in the numbers is that the vast majority of all of these cases are highly populated by boys.

All of these statistics come from federal government research. This is all to say that when we teach our boys that their future roles as men and fathers are not important, we pay the price. We should support and celebrate our daughters, without blaming men and sons in the process.

The problem is not the lifting up of women in our society to completely free and valued individuals. That most definitely needs to be done. The problem is the devaluing of fatherhood, the role of men, and the role of mothers in the process to achieve this end.

Sons and daughters are both equally important and serve completely different roles in society. To ignore this or gloss over it will only lead to more problems in the future.

Do Men Want Sons More Than Women Do?

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, men in the United States surveyed since 1941 have responded two to one that they would rather have a son than a daughter. In contrast, women show a preference for a daughter. Why do men have such a strong preference even now? There are several reasons why they feel a son would be better than a daughter would.

  • They Understand How To Be a Boy: A big reason men want sons is that they were once boys themselves, and they understand what it is to be a boy. They know how to play like a boy and though they love the thought of a little girl, they want to teach a boy to be a man. They know what boys need to become good men. They will probably have shared interests. I’ve written about the bonds of fathers and sons, too.
  • Passing Down the Family Name: Even in modern times, with a small number of women not changing their names when they get married, passing down the family name is important to men. Despite some cultural and legal changes, there is still a desire to have an heir.
  • Easier to Raise a Boy: Men feel that raising a boy is more geared to their toolbox. They sometimes are unsure of how they will deal with a girls emotionality. They are also not sure how to raise a daughter to be successful in the modern era where some try to blur the lines of the feminine and masculine. Boys are seen as less emotionally motivated than girls are.
  • They Don’t Want to be Outnumbered: This plays into the fears of unsure, less masculine husbands and fathers that may be at the mercy of the women in his life. Parents may believe that keeping an even gender ratio in the house creates a balance. With proper masculine roles, these insecurities become less of a problem.
  • Cultural Expectations: This is related to the need to pass down the family name. In many cultures, including the United States, some people believe that a man has failed to pass on his family line if he only has daughters. There are some cultural beliefs in other countries that men are more capable than women and that it benefits the culture’s future to have boys rather than girls.

Some of these are based on misconceptions and others on the differences in sons and daughters that actually exist. Parents will also have their own preferences due to cultural, religious, and historical influences.

How Parents Show Their Preference

All the evidence shows that boy babies are preferred over girl babies, whether or not that preference is warranted. Even after babies are born, many parents indicate that they value their sons over their daughters. According to the National Academy of the Sciences of the United States, this is especially evident in the age of social media.

In a study done in 2016, researchers looked at over 635,000 posts on a Russian social media network. They found that parents posted content about their sons more often than content regarding their daughters. They also found that posts mentioning sons received more “likes” than posts about daughters. This difference could show that boys matter more than girls do.

This display of preference can extend beyond social media. The rise in gender reveal parties can show the true feelings of the expectant parents. There are anecdotal stories of fathers being visibly disappointed when the party reveals that they are expecting a daughter rather than a son.

Finally, studies have shown that families with only girls are more likely to try for another baby in hopes of having a boy. This is less likely to happen in a family of boys or a family with both genders. 

Is There a Shift in the United States?

The last time a survey of gender preference was conducted in the United States was in 2011. In recent years, there appears to be a shift in the direction towards preferring girls to boys. The New York Times reported in 2018 that girls are becoming more desirable. Parents are less likely to try to have more children, and when adopting a child, they are more likely to choose a girl.

There are several reasons why having girls might be seen as a more desirable baby to have today vs earlier in history:

  • Daughters are just as likely to graduate from college as sons: In 2019, 29.5 million women in the labor force had at least a bachelor’s degree, which was nearly identical to men. A degree was seen in the recent past as essential to moving up the socio-economic ladder. (NPR). These norms are also changing and many men are refusing college due to the increased uselessness of many degrees. See my article here on how higher education can be overrated.
  • Girls are losing their unique femininity: More and more parents are sadly putting aside gender roles and are allowing their daughters to embrace roles that are not necessarily suited for girls (Example: Women’s MMA and Cage fighting). With some parents having their girls participate in activities that were traditionally considered to be for “boys,” feminine attributes are being lost. Though this can contribute to wanting daughters, it is stretching the fabric of our societies.
  • Daughters are now financially independent as adults: According to, in the less masculine millennial age group, daughters are less likely to move home or need financial help after age 18 than sons are. Daughters are also more likely to assist their aging parents than sons are. Daughters are taking on traditional roles of the men in the family. Sons are losing what it means to be men.

All Children are Special

If you are having a baby, it is an exciting time. Each baby and child is unique and has its own characteristics that make him or her special. As we’ve shown, there are reasons why you might prefer one gender to the other. That does not mean that one is better than the other.

While it’s perfectly okay to want a boy or a girl, worrying about whether boys are better than girls distracts from the fact that there will be a new person in the world for you to love. You don’t know how your baby will turn out until they are here. Your daughter may turn out to be just what you wanted. 

The Sons Vs Daughters Takeaway…

Sons and daughters are both unique, with their own blend of benefits and challenges for families and society as a whole. There are timeless truths that make boys and girls different. There are also misconceptions in society that place value sometimes in the wrong places.

Sons and daughters are both needed for a society that is equal and balanced. Treating each with the respect and dignity they deserve is the job of both mothers and fathers alike.

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