Mothers Spend More on Daughters & Dads Spend More on Sons, According to a New Study

You likely unwittingly favor your same-gendered child, research shows.

Mother and daughter opening gifts
Photo: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

No parents wants to treat or love one of their children any differently than the others, but new research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that, at least when it comes to spending money, you're more likely to spend money on your daughter if you're a woman, and more likely to spend on your son, if you're a man.

The bias toward same-gendered kids is unwitting: More than 90 percent of people in the multicultural study said they treat children of different genders equally, but in four experiments, researchers found that's not really the case.

In one experiment, participants, who had a child of each gender, were told they would be given a treasury bond worth $25 for one of their children, and they could choose who received it. Most moms gave the bond to their daughters, and most dads gave it to their sons. The same was true in a second experiment in which parents were asked to decide who would receive more money in the family will. And a third, which occurred at a zoo, required that parents fill out a survey in order to receive a raffle ticket. They had to decide if they wanted to enter the raffle for a girl's backback or a boy's. Ultimately, moms picked the girl's backpack 75 percent of the time, and dads opted for the boy's backpack 87 percent of the time.

Researchers chalk this up to the fact that women just happen to identify more with and see themselves more in their daughters—and the same goes for men and their sons.

But as far as the significance of the findings go? The researchers express concern around the fact that whoever holds the family's purse strings may be making unconscious decisions about spending that put either gender at an advantage when it comes to healthcare, inheritance, and investments. Say dad runs the show with a family's finances. It's possible that a son may receive more resources than his sister. They also point out that gender bias extends to workplace situations, wherein a female boss might be more likely to promote female employees. And we can't deny that historically, at least, male bosses have been more inclined to promote fellow men over women.

As researcher Kristina Durante, a professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey, in a public release on the study, sums it up: "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."

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