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The Problem With Wanting to Know Your Baby’s Sex Before Birth

2 minute read

Want to find out your baby’s sex before he or she is born? Then you’re probably either a perfectionist or have conservative views about gender, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Ohio State University asked 182 expectant mothers to take personality tests that assessed their thoughts on gender roles and parenting perfectionism. More laid-back moms who seemed open to new experiences were less likely than perfectionist moms to ask the doctor about whether their babies would be boys or girls. “These results suggest women who choose not to learn their baby’s sex may not worry about having clothes, toys and colors for their child that match traditional gender expectations,” said Letitia Kotila, lead author of the study, which will be published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Finding out your child’s sex before their born, the researchers suggest, may push them towards a certain gender identity later. “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?” Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, another researcher who worked on the study, said.

Famed novelist Ian McEwan weighed in on the debate this weekend when discussing how he assigns a gender to characters in his novels. The Atonement author spoke about how his son and partner were expecting a baby but didn’t want to know the gender. He endorsed their decision: “It is above all a person,” he said at a festival, according to The Times of London “Knowing in advance this social identity which confers a pink and blue fate almost seems like a form of moral kitsch because what you are celebrating is a person. So I rather take the same view of my characters: if it falls out it is a woman or a man, then I go that way.”

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com