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What does only a daughter mean?

The phrase “only a daughter” refers to the cultural preference for sons over daughters that exists in some societies. It implies that having a daughter is somehow inferior or disappointing compared to having a son.

Historical Context

This son preference has deep historical roots in many cultures around the world. In patriarchal societies, sons were valued for their ability to inherit property, carry on the family name, and provide labor on the family farm or business. Daughters were seen as a burden since they would eventually leave to live with their husband’s family.

Dowries given to daughters at marriage were also seen as decreasing the family’s wealth. The perception was that sons contributed to the family, while daughters drained its resources.

Modern Manifestations

While son preference remains strong in some regions, it has weakened in many parts of the world. However, some manifestations of this attitude persist today:

  • In parts of Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, sex-selective abortion and infanticide of baby girls still occurs.
  • Families may invest less in their daughters’ health, nutrition and education.
  • Daughters may have reduced access to medical care, food, and schooling compared to sons.
  • Women lack inheritance rights and assets in some societies.
  • Bride price has replaced dowry in some regions, causing daughters to be seen as valuable assets to be sold.

Factors Driving Son Preference

There are several reasons this son bias continues today:

  • Economic factors – Sons are seen as breadwinners who can provide for parents in old age, while daughters leave the family.
  • Lineage – Sons carry on the family name and bloodline when they have children.
  • Inheritance – Sons inherit property in some societies while daughters may get little.
  • Dowry – Daughters marrying out is seen as a financial burden.
  • Labor – Sons provide farm/business labor.
  • Old age care – Parents expect to live with sons when elderly.
  • Religion – Some religions favor male offspring who can perpetuate traditions.

Impacts of Son Preference

This son bias and devaluing of daughters has a number of detrimental effects:

  • It leads to gender-biased sex selection and abortion of female fetuses.
  • Women suffer from poorer health and nutritional outcomes.
  • Girls receive less education and opportunities to develop skills.
  • Women have lower social status and autonomy.
  • It reinforces gender inequality in society.

In some regions like China and India, the disproportionately high number of “missing women” has led to other problems like human trafficking and bride shortages for men.

Using “Only a Daughter”

Saying “only a daughter” reflects the disappointing feeling that some families still have when a girl is born instead of a boy. It diminishes the value of daughters and promotes gender bias.

This phrase disregards the intrinsic worth of girls and women. It equates female lives with being lesser and inferior to males.

Working Against Son Preference

To counter son preference, a number of measures can help:

  • Laws and policies promoting gender equality and women’s rights.
  • Access to education and economic opportunities for women.
  • Awareness campaigns about the value of daughters.
  • Strict enforcement against sex-selective abortion.
  • Equal inheritance rights for women.
  • Government incentives for having daughters.
  • Changing social attitudes and norms that favor sons.

As societies develop and women gain more emancipation, the traditional son preference is declining. But substantial work remains to be done globally to counteract this harmful gender bias.


The notion that daughters are inferior or disappointing is an outdated patriarchal view. Valuing sons over daughters leads to many injustices and problems.

Having a daughter should be a cause for just as much celebration and joy as having a son. Girls have as much potential as boys. More work is needed to promote gender equality worldwide and end harmful son preference.

The phrase “only a daughter” has no place in a progressive society that seeks equal rights and dignity for all. Each child should be valued for who they are as an individual, not their gender.