Do Parents Favor Sons? A Study of Sex-Biased Parental Care in North-Western Tanzania

Anushe Hassan , London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
Susan Schaffnit, University of California, Santa Barbara
Rebecca Sear, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
Mark Urassa, National Institute for Medical Research, Mwanza
David Lawson, University of California, Santa Barbara

Parental investment theories predict parents will favour specific children if this results in greater subsequent pay-offs. We explore evidence for sex-biased parental care in a high fertility, patriarchal, polygynous population, examining both the gender of the child and the parent. Our data comes from a cross-sectional study on 808 children <5-years from two agro-pastoralist villages in Tanzania. We compare boys with girls in regard to 1) parental marital status and residence; 2) parental allocation of resources (money, clothes, medicine); 3) parental provision of direct care (washing, feeding, playing, caring when sick, supervising and sleeping next to); and 4) duration of breastfeeding. Results indicate that sons have higher odds of receiving direct care, but not other forms of parental investment, from fathers whereas mothers provide equally to both genders across all measures. We discuss possible reasons for the variation in investment patterns seen by child’s gender, parent’s gender and investment indicators.

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 Presented in Session 215. Gender and Families