Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 5/6, March 2005 (
Parental Preference for Sex of Newborn as Reﬂected
in Positive Affect in Birth Announcements
Alexei Quintero Gonzalez
and Richard Koestner
Content analysis of birth announcements was used as a method to investigate parental pref-
erence for the sex of newborns in Canada. The expression of positive affect (happiness and
pride) in birth announcements was examined to determine whether parents express these
emotions differently as a function of the sex of newborn. The ﬁndings suggest that parents
express relatively more pride at the birth of boys than girls, whereas the opposite results
were found for happiness. Parents seem unconsciously to categorize boys and girls into two
distinct motivational systems: status and attachment, which are related to pride and happi-
ness, respectively. This distinction may inﬂuence parents’ perception of their child’s worth
and their subsequent investment in their child’s development.
KEY WORDS: parental preference; sex of newborn; pride; birth announcements.
It’s a Boy! “Rob and Kris are thrilled to an-
nounce the safe arrival of Jack Morgan Tinker. Proud
grandparents are Hollis and Marilyn Clifton of Ot-
tawa and Larry and Rosmary Tinker of Montreal.
Welcome little one!” It’s a Girl! “Barbara Lofton and
Scott Hasler are delighted to announce the birth of
their lovely daughter, Madison Evelyn Hasler. Grand-
parents are both joyful and overwhelmed.” When we
read a birth announcement, the ﬁrst fact revealed is
whether the newborn is a boy or a girl. Parents then
proceed to welcome their newborn with joy and ex-
citement; they are ecstatic, thrilled, and even proud.
In the present study, we examined whether these two
fundamental parts of a birth announcement—baby
gender and parents’ positive affect—are linked. That
is, we examined whether the type of positive affect
that parents display, happiness versus pride, is asso-
ciated with the particular sex of the newborn.
Parental preference for sons has been inves-
tigated in both developing and developed coun-
tries. Research ﬁndings suggest that in developing
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
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countries, especially in agricultural societies, the
birth of sons is typically celebrated more than that
of daughters (e.g., Browner, 1986; Malhi, 1995). A
preference for sons has also been documented in
industrial societies such as Canada (e.g., Krishnan,
1987) and the United States (e.g., Arnold & Kuo,
1984; Markle & Nam, 1971; Pebley & Westoff, 1982;
Different methods have been employed to in-
vestigate parental preferences for sex of children.
The most common method, social surveys, assesses
participants’ (mostly college students and parents)
attitudinal preference for the sex of children. Re-
search in Canada and the United States indicates
there is a preference for the ﬁrstborn to be a boy,
and also for a third child to be a boy when more
than two children are desired. However, there was
also an expressed preference for family balancing—
the desire for a second child that is of the other sex of
the ﬁrstborn (Gilroy & Steinbacher, 1983; Krishnan,
1987; McDougall, DeWit, & Ebanks, 1999). There
are even studies that show a parental preference for
girls as ﬁrstborn, and again as third-born if families
already had a child of each sex (McDougal et. al.,
1999; Pooler, 1991).
Another method used to assess parental sex
preference is the analysis of public records, such as
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.