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Thread: Boy or Girl? It's in the Father's Genes

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    Boy or Girl? It's in the Father's Genes

    A Newcastle University study involving thousands of families is helping prospective parents work out whether they are likely to have sons or daughters.

    The work by Corry Gellatly, a research scientist at the university, has shown that men inherit a tendency to have more sons or more daughters from their parents. This means that a man with many brothers is more likely to have sons, while a man with many sisters is more likely to have daughters.

    The research involved a study of 927 family trees containing information on 556,387 people from North America and Europe going back to 1600.

    "The family tree study showed that whether you’re likely to have a boy or a girl is inherited. We now know that men are more likely to have sons if they have more brothers but are more likely to have daughters if they have more sisters. However, in women, you just can’t predict it," Mr Gellatly explains.

    Men determine the sex of a baby depending on whether their sperm is carrying an X or Y chromosome. An X chromosome combines with the mother’s X chromosome to make a baby girl (XX) and a Y chromosome will combine with the mother’s to make a boy (XY).

    The Newcastle University study suggests that an as-yet undiscovered gene controls whether a man’s sperm contains more X or more Y chromosomes, which affects the sex of his children. On a larger scale, the number of men with more X sperm compared to the number of men with more Y sperm affects the sex ratio of children born each year.

    Sons or daughters?

    A gene consists of two parts, known as alleles, one inherited from each parent. In his paper, Mr Gellatly demonstrates that it is likely men carry two different types of allele, which results in three possible combinations in a gene that controls the ratio of X and Y sperm;

    Men with the first combination, known as mm, produce more Y sperm and have more sons.
    The second, known as mf, produce a roughly equal number of X and Y sperm and have an approximately equal number of sons and daughters.
    The third, known as ff produce more X sperm and have more daughters.
    “The gene that is passed on from both parents, which causes some men to have more sons and some to have more daughters, may explain why we see the number of men and women roughly balanced in a population. If there are too many males in the population, for example, females will more easily find a mate, so men who have more daughters will pass on more of their genes, causing more females to be born in later generations,” says Newcastle University researcher Mr Gellatly.

    More boys born after the wars

    In many of the countries that fought in the World Wars, there was a sudden increase in the number of boys born afterwards. The year after World War I ended, an extra two boys were born for every 100 girls in the UK, compared to the year before the war started. The gene, which Mr Gellatly has described in his research, could explain why this happened.

    As the odds were in favour of men with more sons seeing a son return from the war, those sons were more likely to father boys themselves because they inherited that tendency from their fathers. In contrast, men with more daughters may have lost their only sons in the war and those sons would have been more likely to father girls. This would explain why the men that survived the war were more likely to have male children, which resulted in the boy-baby boom.

    In most countries, for as long as records have been kept, more boys than girls have been born. In the UK and US, for example, there are currently about 105 males born for every 100 females.

    It is well-documented that more males die in childhood and before they are old enough to have children. So in the same way that the gene may cause more boys to be born after wars, it may also cause more boys to be born each year.

    How does the gene work?

    The trees (above) illustrate how the gene works. It is a simplified example, in which men either have only sons, only daughters, or equal numbers of each, though in reality it is less clear cut. It shows that although the gene has no effect in females, they also carry the gene and pass it to their children.

    In the first family tree (A) the grandfather is mm, so all his children are male. He only passes on the m allele, so his children are more likely to have the mm combination of alleles themselves. As a result, those sons may also have only sons (as shown). The grandsons have the mf combination of alleles, because they inherited an m from their father and an f from their mother. As a result, they have an equal number of sons and daughters (the great grandchildren).

    In the second tree (B) the grandfather is ff, so all his children are female, they have the ff combination of alleles because their father and mother were both ff. One of the female children has her own children with a male who has the mm combination of alleles. That male determines the sex of the children, so the grandchildren are all male. The grandsons have the mf combination of alleles, because they inherited an m from their father and f from their mother. As a result, they have an equal number of sons and daughters (the great-grandchildren).
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/release...1211121835.htm

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    Interesting, but I don't understand this argument:

    As the odds were in favour of men with more sons seeing a son return from the war, those sons were more likely to father boys themselves because they inherited that tendency from their fathers. In contrast, men with more daughters may have lost their only sons in the war and those sons would have been more likely to father girls. This would explain why the men that survived the war were more likely to have male children, which resulted in the boy-baby boom.
    If the causalities were evenly distributed among men with many brothers and men with fewer brothers, I would expect the proportion of men with many (dead or alive) brothers would be the same after the war as it was before. Of course, men with only sisters could have been less well fitted for war and died in greater numbers but that still doesn't make sense of the above argument.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vittra View Post
    If the causalities were evenly distributed among men with many brothers and men with fewer brothers, I would expect the proportion of men with many (dead or alive) brothers would be the same after the war as it was before. Of course, men with only sisters could have been less well fitted for war and died in greater numbers but that still doesn't make sense of the above argument.
    No, because in any army made up of males, there's a higher percentage of soldiers with many brothers than soldiers with many sisters (since a majority of males have more brothers than sisters).

    It only takes one casualty to end a male bloodline in a family with only one son (with many sisters). While in a family of (say) four sons (with few sisters), it would take four casualties to end the male bloodline.

    If casualties rates are the same for soldiers with many sisters and soldiers with many brothers, it stands to reason that more of the male-preferential male bloodlines managed to survive through the war, while more of the female-preferential male bloodlines were ended during the war.

    Hence a boom in the proportion of male babies born in the follow generation.



    As for the notion of sex-preferential genes following in an unbroken line from father to son, I'm not sure how much it aligns with my own observations. My maternal grandfather, f.ex., fathered only daughters, while he himself only had brothers. My paternal grandfather fathered two daughters and one son, while this son only fathered sons himself.
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    Thanks for clarifying, but I still don't get it... I'll try to explain with an example why.

    Assume there are 60 sibling pairs, 30 boy-girl pairs and 30 boy-boy pairs. Thus there are 90 boys in total, 30 with sisters and 60 with brothers, so one third with sisters and two thirds with brothers. If half of the boys die and those with sisters are equally affected as those with brothers there will be 15 boys with sisters and 30 boys with brothers (although some of the brothers are dead) left. So even though half of the boys have died, there are still one third with sisters and two thirds who have/had a brother. Since the proportion of boys with sisters is the same I don't see why it would affect the number of boys born in the next generation.

    It sounds reasonable that more boys would be born since more of the bloodlines with many daughters and fewer sons die out, but I've failed to get the numbers to add up with that theory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vittra View Post
    Assume there are 60 sibling pairs, 30 boy-girl pairs and 30 boy-boy pairs. Thus there are 90 boys in total, 30 with sisters and 60 with brothers, so one third with sisters and two thirds with brothers. If half of the boys die and those with sisters are equally affected as those with brothers there will be 15 boys with sisters and 30 boys with brothers (although some of the brothers are dead) left. So even though half of the boys have died, there are still one third with sisters and two thirds who have/had a brother. Since the proportion of boys with sisters is the same I don't see why it would affect the number of boys born in the next generation.

    It sounds reasonable that more boys would be born since more of the bloodlines with many daughters and fewer sons die out, but I've failed to get the numbers to add up with that theory.
    If the men from both the boy-girl families and boy-boy families die at an equal rate, and half of the men die, 100% of the boy-boy bloodlines are allowed to continue, while only 50% of the boy-girl bloodlines are allowed to do so. If there were 30 boy-boy bloodlines and 30 boy-girl bloodlines before the war, there are still 30 boy-boy bloodlines after the war, but only 15 boy-girl bloodlines sustained.

    So if the families with sons in that specific generation were made up of 50% boy-boy families, and 50% boy-girl families, and everyone of the sons were shipped out to war, the balance is now shifted to 75% families with sons with boy-boy genetics and 25% families with sons with boy-girl genetics.

    It's kinda tricky, but I think that makes sense.
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    Apparently, women who are blood type Rh negative can be incompatible carrying the baby from a man who is Rh positive. In other words, it is better for a man to be Rh- than for a woman, since he is capable of impregnating all women. So evolutionary at least, one could believe that being Rh- would benefit the male sex more, but I don't think that there is a discrepancy in sexes when it comes to blood type.

    Anyway, my father is O- and had two sons, whereas his parents had five boys and one daughter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthWestEuropean View Post
    Apparently, women who are blood type Rh negative can be incompatible carrying the baby from a man who is Rh positive. In other words, it is better for a man to be Rh- than for a woman, since he is capable of impregnating all women. So evolutionary at least, one could believe that being Rh- would benefit the male sex more, but I don't think that there is a discrepancy in sexes when it comes to blood type.

    Anyway, my father is O- and had two sons, whereas his parents had five boys and one daughter.
    If mother was RH- and fetus/child RH+ ... there were risks in the past. That risk was even bigger with 2. child vs 1. child. With second pregnancy mother's bloodsystem is easier able to produce antibodies which are risky to fetus. Still thanks to good control of pregnancies, Rho(D) immune globulin etc. ... this matter is not anymore big/huge risk in Scandinavia.

    Phenomenon has been known as RH disease
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rh_disease

    My own bloodtype is O RH+ (not the most common in Sweden).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Finnish Swede View Post
    If mother was RH- and fetus/child RH+ ... there were risks in the past. That risk was even bigger with 2. child vs 1. child. With second pregnancy mother's bloodsystem is easier able to produce antibodies which are risky to fetus. Still thanks to good control of pregnancies, Rho(D) immune globulin etc. ... this matter is not anymore big/huge risk in Scandinavia.

    Phenomenon has been known as RH disease
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rh_disease
    I am sure that there has been improvement, but the guidelines still say that there is a risk. My mother's colleague has been trying to conceive with her partner and has suffered nine miscarriages, and the baby died just recently in their last tenth attempt after she had been "fixed up" for preparation.

    My mother has been saying that "they and their genes are not fit for each other" and while originally thinking that she was acting overtly emotional, the only connection that I can make of it would be that I suspect that she must be Rh- and her partner only has genes for +, resulting in fetuses that are only positive and making him unable to impregnate her.

    On the other hand, it might something completely else. I am far from a doctor.

    My own bloodtype is O RH+ (not the most common in Sweden).
    That says nothing about the Rh status, only the letters. The downside of being O is that you can give to everyone, but only receive from your own. If the personnel is negligent, they might have used up all O so that there is none left when you need it. Hopefully, they are not.

    I don't know my blood group yet, but my mother is B+ and my father is O-. You usually inherit one of them from your parents, so I am likely either O+ or B- (the least common type at 2%) and my brother is the other.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthWestEuropean View Post
    I am sure that there has been improvement, but the guidelines still say that there is a risk. My mother's colleague has been trying to conceive with her partner and has suffered nine miscarriages, and the baby died just recently in their last tenth attempt after she had been "fixed up" for preparation.

    My mother has been saying that "they and their genes are not fit for each other" and while originally thinking that she was acting overtly emotional, the only connection that I can make of it would be that I suspect that she must be Rh- and her partner only has genes for +, resulting in fetuses that are only positive and making him unable to impregnate her.

    On the other hand, it might something completely else. I am far from a doctor.
    Oh, very sad to hear .

    What I just want say now is ... there can be many many other reasons why woman will not become pregnant (caused by both man and woman). Via lab. tests people can quite often find out the most likely reason(s). Still I have not heard that blood types as such would/could directly influence on fertilisation. But after that mother's immune system (pure naturally) can start to protect/attack against fetus red blood cells (if fetus has different RH and if any of fetus blood can get in mother's side) ... as by then mother's blood system will start to produce antidotes. Today those can be seen via blood samples (control visits). Now then ... at mother's 2. pregnancy ... those antidotes are already existing in mother's blood circulation and by then there is even higher risks that they can start to destroy red blood cells of 2. fetus (if it again has different RH). Also birth (as moment) is risky moment as then mother's and fetus/baby's bloods might become mixed. There are also cases then mother has gotten those antidotes via blood transfusion.

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthWestEuropean View Post
    That says nothing about the Rh status, only the letters.
    Yes. All RH- are pretty rare (everywhere). Generally:


    Something more ...
    https://www.quora.com/Are-there-any-...-with-RH-blood

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthWestEuropean View Post
    The downside of being O is that you can give to everyone, but only receive from your own. If the personnel is negligent, they might have used up all O so that there is none left when you need it. Hopefully, they are not.
    In Finland I went to donate my blood regularly ... partly exactly because of that. Partly as I'm healthy and I have quite good hemoglobin value for being girl.

    Quote Originally Posted by NorthWestEuropean View Post
    I don't know my blood group yet, but my mother is B+ and my father is O-. You usually inherit one of them from your parents, so I am likely either O+ or B- (the least common type at 2%) and my brother is the other.
    Everyone should know his/hers bloodtype! My bloodtype card will follow me everywhere (in my handbag ... together with my driving license). You never know what can happen...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Finnish Swede View Post
    If mother was RH- and fetus/child RH+ ... there were risks in the past. That risk was even bigger with 2. child vs 1. child. With second pregnancy mother's bloodsystem is easier able to produce antibodies which are risky to fetus. Still thanks to good control of pregnancies, Rho(D) immune globulin etc. ... this matter is not anymore big/huge risk in Scandinavia.

    Phenomenon has been known as RH disease
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rh_disease
    I know, I am O rh- and my husband is O RH+ and that's why I always need these shots in my pregnancies. This is really annoying. I wish he was rh negative as well or I was positive, so I wouldn't need them. Two of my three daughters are RH positive like their father and one daughter inherited the rh negative type from me.

    I can’t say anything about this boy-girl topic though. My husband fathered only daughters so far, but he's an only child like me, and we don't know whether he would have had brothers or sisters if his parents had had more children.

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