Pink vs. Blue: Americans prefer boy babies, but many parents happy with either

Features -- Family Life -- Photo illustration on parental preference for girl or boy babies. Studio, Monday June 27, 2011. Photo Illustration/Wade Spees/

Tabitha and Chad Dillon of West Ashley could become parents any minute -- or they might even be parents by now.

The arrival of the Dillon baby will be a big surprise. Not only are the couple counting down the final hours to their due date, which is today, but they also have chosen not to find out if they are having a son or a daughter.

"My husband's thought was, 'Why open a present early?' " Tabitha Dillon says.

What's more, the Dillons say they have no preference whether that present wears pink or blue.

A recent Gallup poll asked Americans if they could only have one child, would they prefer a boy or a girl?

Forty percent said they would prefer a boy, while 28 percent would choose to have a daughter. The rest, like the Dillons, had no preference or opinion.

"I wouldn't want to have to choose, but we're very happy it's a boy," says Alyssa Sales of Charleston, who with her husband, Aaron, is expecting a boy in August.

The poll showed that it's the attitude of men that drive the preference for a boy: in the current poll, men favored a boy over a girl by a 49 percent to 22 percent margin.

Mehndi Jager of Summerville, who is expecting a boy in August, says her husband, Jordan, had more of a preference for a son than she did, but, "I wasn't disappointed when we found out it was a boy," she says.

Over time

Since 1941, when boys edged girls by a 38 percent to 24 percent margin, Gallup has asked Americans about their gender preferences 10 times, using slightly different wording sometimes. Every time, the results tilt toward a preference for a boy rather than a girl.

The largest gaps, in 1947 and 2000, were 15 percentage points, and 1990 brought the smallest difference, 4 percent.

"It doesn't surprise me that more people want a boy than a girl," says Charleston mom Karen Reid. "Boys used to be 'prized' more than girls because they are the heir, they are the ones expected to carry on the family name and to help out around the family farm or whatever."

Reid, who has a son and a daughter, says she had no preferences when she was pregnant, "but if you have a son, people always think you want a daughter, and if you have a daughter, people always think you want a son."

She says the day of the week can dictate her feelings toward the two children she has.

"My kids seem to take turns being sweet and being devilish," she says. "I don't think boys are better or girls are better, and I don't think I would change what I have if I could. We decided not to have a 'tie-breaker.' "

Raising all girls is fine with Tom Kenney of Summerville. He has three daughters ranging in age from 2 to 6.

"People ask all the time if we are going for a boy, but I think that's a ridiculous question," he says. "We're not going to keep having children just so we can get that prized son. Would I have liked to have a son to play sports with? Sure. But my girls play T-ball and soccer, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. I sometimes have to play house with them and sometimes I get tired of the co- lor pink, but I'm OK with daughters. They love their daddy."

Having it your way

A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out that the preference for boys over girls is beginning to tilt the gender balance worldwide, a demographic shift that will have major consequences in the decades ahead, according to Gallup.

"Just look at China," says Kendra Smalls, who admits her desire for a daughter after giving birth to two sons played a part in the decision to adopt internationally. "My husband and I had always planned to adopt anyway and would have even if we had biological girls, but we joke that it's just that much more special that we went to China to get a girl."

The Gallup poll says the potential impact of attitudes about the preferred gender of one's child has increased in recent years because techniques for prenatal sex selection are more widely available.

These include ways of detecting the gender of a fetus early in the gestation process and the increasing technological ability to select the sex of a child using in-vitro and artificial insemination procedures.

The degree to which Americans deliberately attempt to select the gender of their children is unclear.

"If we could select the sex of our child, we wouldn't do it," says Colby Spencer of Charleston, who is expecting a daughter in September. "That just seems like messing with things a little too much. I think if most parents are honest, they don't really care what they have. The baby's health is probably their No. 1 concern."

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Brenda Rindge can be reached at 937-5713.