November 05, 2020 | Press Release

Parents’ Well-Being: Gender Composition of Children Does Not Matter

Parents´ happiness does not depend on the gender of the children. ©

For the first time, research scientist Daniela Negraia analyzed US-American survey data to investigate if parents’ happiness – during time spent with children – is influenced by the gender composition of their children. It is not.

In the United States it does not make a difference for parents’ happiness if they raise just sons or just daughters, or both sons and daughters. They enjoy the time spent with their children independent from the gender composition.

That is, what Daniela Negraia, research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany and colleagues find in their paper published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

“Our paper is the first one showing that in the US, child gender does not influence parents’ positive emotions, during time spent with children”, says Daniela Negraia.

That is surprising, since US adults report a preference to have at least one child of their own gender. This is especially true for men who express a preference to having boys over girls, if they could only have one child. Nevertheless, the researchers found that fathers were just as happy and reported just as much fulfillment while spending time with girls as they do with boys, or with boys and girls at the same time. “For mothers we found the same pattern”, says Daniela Negraia.

Their finding for parents in the US is in line with a study by MPIDR Director Mikko Myrskylä and colleague published in 2016, which used data from the UK and Germany. They also found no difference in overall happiness for parents related to gender composition of their children.

The researchers linked data from the American Time Use Survey

For their analysis the researchers used time-diary data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) for the years 2010, 2012 and 2013 from 16,140 activities reported by 8,621 parents. The survey captures what people did, e.g., sleep, eat, work, play during the past 24 hours, where they were, and who else was present.

“For our study it was important that respondents were also asked how they felt during specific activities”, says Daniela Negraia. And adds: “So we were able to link the information about what parents did, how they felt during the activity, and who was present.” In this way the researchers directly tested if parents who spent time only with girls where happier compared to parents spending time with boys, or children of both genders. They found no differences. Daniela Negraia and her colleagues also examined differences by child gender, in parents’ negative emotions of stress and fatigue. More about these findings can be read in the paper.

Original publication

Negraia, D., Yavorsky, J., Dukhovnov, D.: Mother’s and Father’s Well-Being: Does the Gender Composition of Children Matter? Journal of Marriage and Family. (2020) DOI:

Author of the paper

Research Scientist in the Laboratory of Digital und Computational Demography

Daniela Veronica Negraia


The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.