A person’s genetic background may influence the likelihood of them getting divorced, according to a joint US-Swedish study.
Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University in the United States and Lund University in Sweden examined data concerning nearly 83,000 individuals. Previous studies had shown that the children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves in adulthood but researchers had been assumed this was due to learned behaviour.
To try and shed further light on the causes, the US-Swedish team compared the marital histories of adopted children in their data to that of both their adoptive and biological parents.
Lead researcher Professor Jessica Salvatore explained:
“If adoptees resemble their biological parents, we know that it’s genetic factors that contribute to this resemblance because biological parents only give genes to their offspring. [But] if adoptees resemble their adoptive parents, we know that it’s something about being raised in a divorced household that contributes to this resemblance because adoptive parents provide only an environment (not genes) to their adopted children.”
The team found that the marital histories of adopted children more closely resembled their biological parents than that of their adopted families:
“Thus there was consistent evidence that genetic factors contributed to the intergenerational transmission divorce, but weaker evidence for a rearing environmental effect of divorce.”
Professor Salvatore said:
“We were surprised by the findings. Previous studies on why divorce runs in families …have really focused on the pernicious effects that growing up in a divorced household has on one’s own marital stability later in life. [But] in our study a different picture emerged.”
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.
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