Lansing, MI- Data shows that married couples who have firstborn daughters have a higher divorce rate than couple whose first child is a boy. Why this is true has been a matter of debate, but the prevailing wisdom is that men prefer to have sons. But a new study from Duke University found that the gender of a couple’s child has little to do with divorce and more to do with the hardiness of female children.

“Many have suggested that girls have a negative effect on the stability of their parents’ union,” said Duke University economist Amar Hamoudi and co-author of the study, “We’re saying: ‘Not so fast.’”

Hamoudi and fellow researcher Jenna Nobles, a University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist, have a different explanation; female embryos are more likely to survive the stresses of a troubled marriage to birth. They concluded that marital conflict prior to the birth is a better predictor of divorce than the gender of a couple’s children.

Girls and women at every age have a higher survivability rate than boys and men, and according to epidemiological studies, the hardiness of females begins in the womb. This hardiness gives female embryos an advantage if their parents have a strained relationship.

According to the study, troublesome events, including fights among married couples, can lead to high levels of stress hormones which can in turn affect fertility.

Hamoudi and Nobles say in their study that conflict among married couples at any given point in their marriage can predict the sex of any children they have in the future. Women who reported higher levels of conflict in their marriage were more likely to have girls than boys.

“Girls may well be surviving stressful pregnancies that boys can’t survive,” Hamoudi said, “Thus girls are more likely than boys to be born into marriages that were already strained.”

Hamoudi says hopefully this study will encourage further inquiry into how the months leading to pregnancy and birth affect the overall population.

In their conclusion to the study researchers said, “Because marriage and nuclear families are no longer the dominant environment of fertility and child-rearing in the United States, it may be worth extending this inquiry to outcomes other than divorce.”

Hamoudi and Nobles came up with results of their study by analyzing data from a representative sample of U.S. couples from 1979 to 2010. The study appears online in the journal Demography.

Why people divorce has been the subject of study after study. Most people don’t enter into a marriage with the intention of getting a divorce, but the fact is that not all couples are capable of making marriage work. Admitting that a marriage isn’t going to work and reaching out to a divorce attorney takes strength.

The decision to divorce is not an easy one to make and the process itself doesn’t get any easier. When you are facing divorce, it’s wise to contact a divorce attorney and get their guidance through this distressing time.