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A mother's work is never done - if she has a girl first, study finds

A mother's work is never done, goes the saying. But could it be that the amount of work she does depends on the gender of her children? A new economics study suggests that women with first-born daughters work more in a typical week and work longer hours than women with first born sons.

The economists who looked at data from the U.S., U.K., Italy and Sweden for the study called the findings something of "a puzzle," according to the Wall Street Journal.

"In less-developed countries, research shows that having a first-born girl tends to increase fertility in what is dubbed the 'desire for a son' effect. That, in turn, would tend to keep mothers out of the labour force longer, as they have more children," reports the WSJ.

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But the authors found another factor that more than offsets that effect: stability of the marriage itself, the blog post suggests.

According to the previous research cited by the researchers, a first-born girl "reduces substantially the stability of a marriage." Divorce rates have been found to be four per cent higher for women whose first born is a girl. It follows that broken families stop having children.

In the four Western countries sampled, "the negative impact on fertility deriving from the fact that fewer pregnancies are needed to get a boy is more than compensated by the positive effect on fertility deriving from the greater stability of marriages," the authors wrote, according to the WSJ.

So, a first-born boy may lead to a woman having more children and staying out the labour market for longer periods of time.

The study coincides with a poll taken in the UK that suggests another wrinkle: Families with two girls are the happiest.

"The results show of all the variations, two girls make for the most harmonious family life as they are unlikely to fight, will play nicely and are generally a pleasure to be around," reports the Telegraph. It also emerged two girls rarely annoy their parents, make limited noise, often confide in their parents and are unlikely to wind each other up or ignore each other."

Maybe that explains why Tiger Mother Amy Chua always seems so zen, despite the fact that as a mother of a first-born girl, she may be working mroe than her peers.

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The bad news: Parents of four girls turned out to be the least happy with family life overall, with one in four of those admitting they were not 100 per cent happy with their lot - and one in three finding it hard to cope on a daily basis, according to the Telegraph.

Although there are always anecdotal examples to refute studies and polls, do these findings ring true in your life and circle of friends?

Are moms with first born daughters working more? Are families with two daughters all unicorns and rainbows?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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