Independent woman? The reason you should expect plenty of sons

Published: January 27, 2013
Dominant women are more likely to give birth to sons. DESIGN: ANUSHAY FURQAN

Dominant women are more likely to give birth to sons. DESIGN: ANUSHAY FURQAN


If you are a woman and have ever felt that nature has perhaps not been impartial in giving you a fair share of faculties, look no further.

As the work of Dr Valerie J Grant, an evolutionary psychologist at The University of Auckland in New Zealand, has determined, there is strong evidence to suggest that the sex of a newborn is determined in large part by the personality traits and hormonal profile of the mother. In a paper that has given her worldwide renown, Sex determination and the maternal dominance hypothesis, Dr Grant explains how.

The maternal dominance hypothesis

On the basis of the results coming from a series of studies carried out over a 30-year period, various social scientists have identified ‘consistent, statistically significant evidence’ to support the view that there is a “maternal involvement in the predetermination of the sex of her infant.”

What is this maternal involvement?

As incredible as it sounds, the maternal involvement at hand is that women with dominant personality types have consistently been found to be as much as 80% more likely to give birth to sons.

How come?

• Dominance is a personality trait in humans that is characterised by sub-traits such as being “influential, ascendant, prevailing, authoritative or high-in-control.” In their entirety, a dominant person is an individual who can be found “acting overtly so as to change the views or actions of another.”

• As such, dominance in humans is underpinned by the hormone testosterone, with a high correlation between scoring high on dominance personality tests or other markers and serum (blood) testosterone levels.

• The sex of an infant is determined by whether, at the time of conception, the woman’s eggs are fertilised by a sperm bearing an ‘X’ (female) or ‘Y’ (male) chromosome. According to Dr Grant, high testosterone levels at this time in the woman will prime her to be receptive to the latter (Y chromosome) and lead to the development of a male infant.

• In her paper Dr Grant identifies: A meta-analysis of all studies showed that women who later bore sons were significantly more likely to have scored higher on the tests of dominance than those who later bore daughters.

But that’s just the half of it. Dr Grant refreshes the maternal dominance hypothesis with studies showing that personality traits and an individual’s hormonal profile are rooted in a ‘complex two-way interaction between biological as well as environmental influences.’ In other words, any changes in an individual’s status-quo that is tied to dominant behaviour is likely to be accompanied with changes in testosterone levels. Think of a divorced, single-mother previously working to raise several children, now getting married to a wealthy and protective man. According to Grant’s work, with the ceasing of dominant-status their would likely be a decline in its hormonal basis (testosterone.)

As such, small to moderate variations may occur across the lifetime of a woman. For a small percentage of women who are at either end of ‘high dominance’ or ‘low dominance’ these fluctuations may be inconsequential. For the vast majority, however, even very small variations in the amount of testosterone will suffice to “take them either side of a critical threshold.. (leading) to the conception of a male or female infant.”

And that’s good news too, since, as evolutionary biologists are quick to point out, it seems like nature has endowed women with the power to strongly influence the sex of the infant in favour of the one their personalities are most suited to raise. Not bad!

The author is the head of Scholars by Profession, a local research initiative. Find out more at

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2013.              

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Haris H. Seyal
    Jan 27, 2013 - 8:53PM

    Assalam ‘alaikum readers,

    If anyone wants to read the actual journal article, please send a request on the Scholars by Profession facebook page; it will be provided to you.


  • lily
    Jan 27, 2013 - 8:59PM



  • Shaami
    Jan 27, 2013 - 9:11PM

    These articles must not be appreciated in our ignorant societies. Already people are going at length for sons and many women are persecuted because of female child and now again men will blame women that you are the reason that i dont have any son. ET kindly remove this article.


  • Bushra
    Jan 27, 2013 - 10:02PM

    Agree with shaami


  • John B
    Jan 27, 2013 - 10:37PM

    Absolute nonsense.

    According to this hypothesis half the women in the world are dominant and the rest are not since sex ratio in a large population is 50:50. And the dominant women will have higher number of male progeny which is not supported by population statistics and again fails to explain why they also have female progeny.

    Million+ sperm enters the cervix, half of them carrying X and the other half carrying Y chromosome, and half the population of this mix end up in wrong uterine horn and Fallopian tube and the other half in the right fallopian tube where one lucky sperm (X or Y) enters the oocyte (released between 24 hrs period) using its hyaluronidase enzyme present in the acrosomal cap of the sperm : fertilization and sex selection is determined at the sperm level. Only one sperm enters by enzymatic penetration and the oocyte does not select the sperm

    After the sperm entry, the oocyte proteins shuts down the existing transcription of sperm DNA(300-500 genes) and now dictates the orderly transcription of zygote. (diploid, fertilized oocyte). Here is an excellent example of how females control the males at the very molecular level at the very time of fertilization!

    Hormones play a role only later but not a sex determining role. Testosterone helps the development of Wolffian duct into male sexual organs.

    The maternal effect of sex determination do happens however in turtles and it is mediated by maternal mitochondrial genes.

    According to statistical data I should have been dead by automobile accident !


  • Not_Ignorant
    Jan 27, 2013 - 11:01PM

    @Shaami: Well then the society should read about such scientific facts to learn and change their point of views; asking ET to remove means continuing the ignorance of the readers who might one day find this article/journal and get updated with latest research.

    @ET: Usually its a good practice to provide links to original source papers in such articles so that any interested reader could directly access it.


  • Sidrah
    Jan 27, 2013 - 11:49PM

    Terrible article by ET. Do you know how many women in Pak are ostracized by community for not having sons. During pregnancy a women instead of being happy and enjoying the most beautiful time in her life is constantly in pressure of producing a son. This article just says that gender of a child depends on women when it clearly depends on men.


  • Saima
    Jan 28, 2013 - 2:15AM

    One flip side of being an overly dominant and independant woman…..ummmm in our society….the husband might not be able to stand her long enough to make babies… Western society…she might not want babies all together…….sorry sounds a bit crude. But not as crude as ditching scientific evidence of the role of the male chromosome in determining the sex of the baby in favor of a behavioral evaluation of a “dominant role”…which cannot be measured scientifically.


  • Ahsan Mlk
    Jan 28, 2013 - 3:32AM

    @John B:


    Thank you for the high school science class while conveniently ignoring the fact the report mentions chances and not certainties.
    There is a lot science has not discovered yet – if it isn’t discovered it does not mean it does not exist.
    The earth was once flat, now its not.
    Pluto was once in the planet category, now its not.
    Hope you get the gist of it…


  • Parvez
    Jan 28, 2013 - 11:41PM

    The quetion to be asked is : Is that a good thing ?
    Possibly a similar study would show that such boys have more of a chance turning out to be wimps because of the doinant mother.


  • Nobody
    Jan 29, 2013 - 5:41PM

    Sounds like a load of diddly.


  • IZ
    Mar 11, 2013 - 12:17PM

    Define ‘statistically consistent evidence’?


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