We’ve all heard that old adage, “Mothers love their sons and raise their daughters.” While some have followed that premise into academic study (to inconclusive results) and others, such as evolutionary biologists Robert Trivers and Dan Willard, have given it qualifications (parents prefer their sons in favorable conditions and their daughters during difficult times), a study this year by Michigan State University anthropologist Masako Fujita is the most recent to prove daughters are favored — at least among poor mothers.

Fujita studied 83 Kenyan mothers and concluded that poorer women’s milk quality and frequency of feeding increased with daughters and diminished with sons.

CONCLUSION: Poor mothers place a larger biological investment in their daughters than their sons.

IMPLICATION: As Trivers and Willard previously suggested, less privileged moms may provide more resources to their daughters, since they stand a greater chance of increasing their status through their child’s marriage this way.

The study was conducted on women who lived in villages where men were allowed multiple wives, further increasing the likelihood that the daughters’ stations would improve through marriage. The full study was originally published in  the American Journal of Physical Anthropology this May.

 

What do you think of these findings? Surprising? Predictable? Similar or vastly different from your own observations about mothers and children from various socioeconomic backgrounds and experiences? Weigh in. 

 

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  • Trilha

    Oh but of course Kenyan mothers must be poor mothers and therefore are represtative of all poor mothers everywhere…. since….facepalm

    • slb

      Not all of the 83 mothers studied were poor, hence the research’s ability to compare the results of poorer women with those of wealthier ones.

    • Keiko

      Yes. I read about this study on Jezebel and I couldn’t help but think that the results would be much different depending on the people who are studied.

  • Jenn

    I’m not sure I understand in what way this is relevant.

  • Humanista

    Hmmm… The “love sons/raise daughters” issue is a sociological (not biological) one that is generally used to describe the parenting styles of single mothers in the Black American community. How this relates to Kenya and breast milk is unclear to me. Was there a clear connection drawn between breast milk production and emotional support–how do we know it’s not a biological necessity or a result of some other variable? Either way, I would disagree that the mantra has been “turned on its head”. Now, I couldn’t argue that the mantra itself is either right or wrong, but the results of this investigation don’t seem to add a whole lot to the discussion. …And there seem to be some serious leaps and bounds being made between the evidence and the “implications”.

    • Royaltee

      “hmmm… The “love sons/raise daughters” issue is a sociological (not biological) one that is generally used to describe the parenting styles of single mothers in the Black American community. How this relates to Kenya and breast milk is unclear to me.”

      This comment made me laugh! I’m not sure I understand this either ….0_o what does breast milk production have to do with anything and the number of participants in the study was only 83 thats not a large enough data pool to begin with….why is this news again???