Durban - It’s a decision every new parent must make – should I find out the gender of my unborn child before he or she is born?
Now new research has found that the decision gives insight into the new mother and what sort of parent she is likely to be.
The study, led by human sciences graduate Letitia Kotila from Ohio State University, is to be published in the next issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
What it found was that those who chose to know showed more perfectionist parenting qualities, while those who chose not to were more egalitarian and conscientious.
There were 182 expectant mothers involved in the study and each participant’s behaviour and experiences were studied across their transition to parenthood.
A variety of tests were done to measure characteristics of their personality, gender, role, beliefs and expectations. The majority chose to know their baby’s sex before birth.
The results showed that those who scored high in parenting perfectionism – which means they sometimes set unrealistically high standards – were more likely to find out the sex early.
These expectant mothers also thought that knowing the child’s sex would relieve them of some anxiety during the uncertain pregnancy process, Kotila said. On the other hand, women who chose not to know, were more open to new experiences and combined egalitarian views about the roles of men and women in society with conscientiousness.
“The results suggest these women may not worry about having clothes, toys and colours for their child that match traditional gender expectations,” said Kotila.
“We don’t know this for sure yet, but expectant mothers’ choices on whether to find out their baby’s sex may show gender role attitudes that shape how they raise their children.”
The Mercury spoke to two mothers to find out their reasons for knowing or not.
Frances Higgins, 28, from Joburg, said she chose not to know for all three of her pregnancies.
“I believe human individuality exists before birth and even before conception. I didn’t want to know the gender of my child as a sign of respect towards a human being who will be born tiny and helpless, but already deserves the respect one would have for a mature human being,” she said.
Higgins said she didn’t want to pry any more than was necessary for the baby’s health.
Samantha Swaitek, 27, from Durban, who had a baby in March, said she wanted to know the moment it was possible.
“She was my first child and knowing the sex helped me feel some sort of control over the situation.
“I had no idea what to expect after she came, but at least I knew she was a girl and everything would be ready,” said Swaitek.
Swaitek described herself as a perfectionist who was sometimes anxious.
“Knowing early on also helped us financially because we were able to slowly collect outfits and decorate her bedroom ahead of time.”
Swaitek said that she had really wanted a girl in the first place. Higgins said she did not have any wishes with regard to gender.
Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, an associate professor at Ohio State University, said this study was a starting point.
“If you know ahead of time that you’re having a girl, are you layering on all the pink and purple in a way that is going to push an extremely feminine ideal on your child?” she asked.
“This may affect what paths a girl thinks is appropriate, all the way to what kind of careers she considers.”