NEW BRUNSWICK, N. J. — So much for being a “mama’s boy” or “daddy’s little girl.” A new study finds that, if forced to spend money on their children, mothers are more inclined to buy gifts for their daughters, while fathers are more likely to get something for their sons.
Researchers at Rutgers Business School recruited parents with at least one son and daughter for a series of experiments, hoping to determine whether moms and dads tended to favor one child over another when it came to gender — especially since 90 percent of parents indicate they don’t play favorites.
The first experiment had parents decide which child they would give a $25 treasury bond to, which found that a majority of mothers gave it to their daughter, and a majority of fathers gave it to their son.
To test for cultural biases, the same experiment was replicated among parents from India, which demonstrated similar outcomes.
Subsequent experiments showed that parents also favored their same-gendered child when it came to estate allocation in their wills, and even in lottery or raffle situations in which either their son or daughter could benefit.
In the raffle experiment, the parents could only enter a drawing for one prize: a girl’s or boy’s backpack filled with back-to-school supplies. The results were quite clear — mothers chose the girl’s backpack 76 percent of the time, while 87 percent of fathers opted for the boy’s bag.
“We found that the effect was very robust in four different experiments and across cultures,” says researcher Kristina Durante in a press release. “The bias toward investing in same-gendered children occurs because women identify more with and see themselves in their daughters, and the same goes for men and sons.”
While these findings may present a possible dilemma for some children, in that the parent who wears the pants may unintentionally neglect their opposite sex child, they may also hint at greater societal dilemmas.
“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,” explains Durante. “If this gender bias 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.”
The full study will be published in the January 2018 edition of the Journal of Consumer Psychology.