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Family’s (poor)BCG analysis of children : Sons as ‘Stars’ and Daughters as ‘Dogs’

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on May 11, 2009

let them shine

A few weeks ago I skimmed through a book* on Strategic Management. I came across ‘Boston Consulting Group (BCG)’s portfolio analysis. It is based on product life cycle theory that can be used to determine what priorities should be given in the product portfolio of a business unit. It feels uncomfortable comparing a family to a business unit, but interestingly the word ‘economics’ is derived from ancient Greek and means laws of management of a ‘household’. So, there should not be a problem with studying unwritten ‘business’ laws in a family. What has that got to do with sons and daughters? Let us see…

A family decides how much resource is to be allocated to each child based on certain values and this affects the future trajectory of each child. My previous post was on society’s obsession with having sons. In this post, my point is that ‘maleomania’ might also not be useful.

Let us study a modified version of BCG’s portfolio analysis. The two dimensions in which children (products) are to be rated are Growth Potential and Domestic Productivity. My intuition is many young boys fit in the ‘problem children’ category as they do not contribute much in the house-hold chores and are perceived to have a high growth potential. Young girls on the other hand help their mothers in their domestic work. There is indifference to her growth potential. So most likely an average girl falls into the ‘cows’ category.

Domestic Productivity

Growth Potential





Problem Child




How do managers deal with ‘problem children’? They increase investment in product development or encourage retrenchment into speciality niches. If son is not studying well in studies, what do parents do? Send him for tuitions, coaching classes, cricket coaching (at least he can use sports quota), personality development workshops etc. If he is absolutely not fitting in, parents would plan sending him to some uncle’s place to learn business!

Daughters on the other hand are like BCG’s ‘cows’ which keep producing/ serving the family without much scope for growth. In the adult years, when the focus is on the son’s produce/ service (economic/social), the daughter’s share (domestic) looks small and she is perceived to be a ‘dog’. If the family accepts her well it is the case of a ‘faithful dog’ if not it is sadly that of a ‘mangy’ dog! The manager’s solution for mangy dogs is disposal, in this case in form of marriage!

The model is supposed to work for the benefit of the family economy, though I have seen it failing. I have been observing the problems faced by old people. There was an old lady, who was admitted in our Hospital with acute watery diarrhoea. She needed intravenous fluids for some time. She has five grown up sons. None of her sons was willing to be her caregiver. A salaried son of hers arranged a caretaker of another patient to also look after his mother!!!What is the use of having five useless sons?

What is the least expectation from children? Reasonably, that they take care of parents in their old age. What is the guarantee that a son would surely take care of parents in their old age? One can only hope that the proverbial budape ki lathi does not give a stick to the old parents. In the yester years, when society was agrarian, it was expected that eldest of the sons would take care of the parents.

Changing demographics shifted the responsibility to one of the sons who ‘could’ take care of them. This shift was pragmatic and not driven by social norms. So, even if a family abandons their old, there are no issues raised by others. In the modern era, when people have fewer sons, the probability that all sons would fail them is more than if they had more. I am not presenting a case against family planning. I want to argue that sons need not be stars working in interest of their family. They could become druggies, they could elope, they could be ‘hen-pecked’, or they could just abandon their parents.

The society always had capable girls, who provided in the domestic front and if need be in the community too. Please read this post for such a story. Given an opportunity, girls can achieve all that boys can. The society is changing. Women are entering workforce. Roles in a marriage are changing. Women too earn for the family and men help in domestic chores. In such context, I am sure responsible girls would provide for their aged parents. The BCG analysis forgot that with time, management itself would change! If the family considered a daughter as a star and had invested in her growth there are possibilities that the daughter proved herself worthy, even more than what could be imagined.

Intuitively, it is expected that sons move from ‘problem child’ status to ‘star’ status and daughter’s descend from ‘cow’ status to ‘dog’ status. In real life despite odds against them many daughters shine like stars and in spite of receiving all inputs few sons go to dogs.

Is it worth killing an unborn girl child (a potential star) for having a son (a potential dog, God forbid)? …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

*Ginter PM, Swayne LE, Duncan WJ. Strategic Management of Health Care Organizations. 4th edition (2005). Blackwell Publishing


7 Responses to “Family’s (poor)BCG analysis of children : Sons as ‘Stars’ and Daughters as ‘Dogs’”

  1. drmyers said

    Keep up the good work with your blog!!!
    Shoot me an email; perhaps we could do a mutual blog roll.
    Again, keep up the great work, and I hope to talk to you more the future!
    Aaron Myers

  2. Karthik said

    Hi Dheeraj

    Nice posts dude.


  3. sucharita padhy said

    Hi Dheeraj

    Nice to know that you are implementing strategic management so nicely.I think your analysis is true for basically poorer and mostly illiterate classes,but not for the tribal classes.Because in those classes generally both boys and girls are illiterate, both contribute for the family income,sometimes the bride gets dowry from the groom side and mostly the families are mother oriented.So in those cases although the are poorer and illiterate girls should be considered as either cash cow or star(I don’t know whether they are considered or not).


    • Dheeraj Kattula said

      Thank you Sucharitha for the comment.You are absolutely right in saying that the Tribal people prefer to have girl children.
      I have observed this to be changing with tribal people joining main-stream they are embracing the ills of the rest of society.

      You have said “analysis is true for basically poorer and mostly illiterate classes”, I beg to differ from you. This is seen even in upper classes.Socially speaking sex ratios are worse as we go higher on the caste ladder.

      From an economic angle sex ratios are worse in the wealthier parts of India than other parts.If you study Delhi the worst sex ratios are found where the elite live not the poor.

      Though it important to see socio-economic factors which can lead to differences, let us not forget that ‘world-view’ of a society can transcend those barriers.

  4. Esther Nalini said

    Nice post Dheeraj! its d same evrywhere!I have 2 friends (a periodontist and an engineer)with whom i used to pray over the phone. boh while expecting their second child (first child was a girl for both) used to pray that they have sons! and they did have sons and then gave their testimony when we met, that God answered their prayer.

    • Dheeraj Kattula said

      Absolutely true. Being an educated person does not change that attitude.
      This rubs into their spiritual outlook too as you have pointed out instead of biblical values guiding their worldview on gender and family.

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