Friday, November 16, 2012

Gender Preferences in Ukrainian Adoption: Snips and Snails vs. Sugar and Spice

Why do so many American families wish to adopt girls rather than
boys? What were your feelings before and after adopting about the
differences in genders and gender preference?

By Dawn at Creating a Family

The old nursery rhyme presents the choice quite succinctly: you
can have snips, snails, and puppy dog tails (presumably along
with tailless dogs) or you can have sugar, spice and all things
nice. Most adoptive parents prefer sugar and spice. Adoption
agencies, both domestic and international, tell me that if given
a choice, 75-80% of adoptive parents prefer to adopt girls. It's
a sad irony that there are more boys available for adoption than
girls. Interestingly, numerous researcher have found that
parents expecting a child by birth prefer a boy, at least for
their first child. Issues like this intrigue me, so I've spent
more time than I'd like to admit thinking about why adoptive
parents prefer to adopt girls.

Women are usually the drivers in the adoption process and many
women prefer to parent girls. As with most issues of the heart,
the reasons aren't entirely clear. They may want to enjoy the
same gender specific activities and toys of their childhood, or
they think they will have a better handle on how to raise girls,
having been one themselves. Single woman often prefer girls
because they believe it will be easier to raise a daughter
without a father. But I think the reason may be deeper. I
believe that many women are afraid of raising boys, assuming that
boys are more active, disruptive, loud, and dirty; and that
teenage boys will engage in more risky or challenging behavior.

There isn't a lot of research on parental gender preference, but
the limited research that is available shows that many women
think that their husbands are also more comfortable raising a
girl. Dr. Kristine Freeark, a clinical psychologist specializing
in adoption and a professor at the University of Michigan, notes
that the perception of what the husband wants is a very
influential factor in preferring a girl. She points out that her
research does not address whether this perception is accurate.

The matriarchal nature of our society may also play a role. It
is more often the daughters that are the keepers of the family
traditions, planners of the family reunions, and schedulers of
the grandparent visits. Parents may subconsciously be trying to
position themselves on the inside track with their adult child's

Daughters are also more likely to be the caregivers for aging
parents. As my husband, Peter, so inelegantly tells our kids,
"In a couple of years I'm going to need someone to wipe the drool
off my chin and one of you will be the lucky one." (He says this
to both our sons and daughters who are equally disgusted at the
thought.) We all know exceptions to this generalization, and we
expect that our son will be one of these exceptions; but, perhaps
on a subconscious level, parents may think daughters are a surer
bet for being old-age drool wipers.

There is also what I call the "China doll" effect. Girls,
especially Asian and Latino girls, are sometimes perceived as
pretty little dolls to be dressed up and looked at. They often
receive attention for their looks and parents may enjoy the
reflected glory. Don't misunderstand me: life is undoubtedly
easier for the attractive and enjoying your child's beauty and
the compliments they receive is fine. I think, however, it helps
to acknowledge if this is part of the motivation for wanting a
girl since not all girls gracefully fit this stereotype. You may
get one of the rough and tumble, nose-picking variety. Even if
your daughter fits the bill, you will have the added challenge of
helping her understand that she is more than her looks; she is
also smart, strong, and capable.

The reverse of the China doll syndrome is the "scary minority
adolescent male" syndrome. I think male teens have a negative
image in our society, and this is especially the case with
minority males. Parents may have this stereotype in mind when
thinking about parenting a black, Hispanic or Asian boy. Plus,
President Obama not withstanding, there are not as many positive
male role models in the media for Latinos, Asians, and African
Americans. It is hard for many parents to imagine parenting
Jackie Chan.

And then there is the cuddle factor. Most parents begin the
adoption journey after spending years dealing with infertility.

These years of pent up desire for a child to hold and nurture can
feed the desire to adopt a girl since girls are perceived as
being more affectionate and responsive to cuddling. Further, our
society discourages doting on boys. One woman I talked to summed
it up well, "It is more socially acceptable to spoil a girl, and
quite frankly, I want to do some spoiling."

The family name has traditionally been passed through the males
of a family and some families are less willing to have a male
outside their blood line carry the name into future generations.

Most liberated modern folks don't consciously subscribe to this
belief, but on an unconscious level they may be vulnerable or may
think that grandparents will be more accepting of an adopted
daughter since she would have less impact on the family name.

My View from the Trenches

Before starting my family I definitely sided with the sugar and
spice side in the battle of the sexes. Now, two sons and two
daughters later, I have a different view. While I would never
deny that there are differences between boys and girls, my
experience and research shows that there are more differences
within a gender than there are between the genders. Also, the
"easiest" has more to do with the personality of the child and
the parent than on the gender. The child that we find easiest to
raise is usually the child that fits the best with our

While the loudest of my children is a boy, one daughter is a
close second. The calmest of my children is a boy. The most
talkative of my kids is a boy, but the one who talks most freely
about emotions is a girl. I should also add that the one least
likely to share her emotions is the other girl. By far the
sweetest of all my kids is a boy (at least that was the case
until he turned 13, but I've concluded that all 13 year olds are
developmentally incapable of being sweet, and I still have hope
that he'll revert to his sweet self when he is older). All four
of mine are slobs and pack rats. All four hated showers,
brushing teeth, changing underwear, and all other forms of
personal hygiene until the appeal of the opposite sex beckoned.

I haven't seen much difference in parental anxiety in the teen
years based on the gender of the child. I worry about them all,
and the one I worry about the most changes daily. If forced to
pick, I'd have to say that the "hardest" is one son, but the
"easiest" is the other son-so far at least. But I still have one
daughter left to go, so all bets are off.

Undeniably, girls are more fun to dress until they develop a
fashion sense of their own (and I use the word "fashion" quite
loosely), which usually hits around the age of five. From that
point on they are harder and more expensive to dress. As they
age, you find yourself forced to ask questions such as "Who in
their right mind would pay that much for a pair of jeans?" and
"Where, outside of a red light district, would you wear that?"

I now feel blessed to have children of both genders and of all
different personality types. The "easiest" varies depending on
developmental stage (mine and theirs) and personality (mine and
theirs). For me, a little snail and tail mixed with my sugar and
spice is the best of all worlds.

Adoption Services International unites loving US families with
Ukrainian children. We provide a unique combination of
professional, individualized, quality service (including a
maximum guaranteed adoption fee), personal adoption experience,
affordable local cost and 20 years Ukrainian experience.

If you or someone you love would like to expand your family,
provide a permanent home for a needy orphaned child, welcome a
sibling for an existing child or discover an alternative for
infertility treatments - contact us to learn more about Ukrainian
adoption, Adoption Services International can help.


Upcoming Event:

The Ukrainian Adoption Process: Informational Meeting

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:00-8:00PM

Location: Wellness Rocks: 133 Rupell Road, Clinton, New Jersey

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