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Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Is There A Divorce Gene? New Research Says, Yes

We pass along eye and hair color and a host of other biological traits, but is it possible that divorce is in your DNA? Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden believe it’s true; and their findings will soon be published in the journal Psychological Science.

The scientists analyzed Swedish population registries and found that people who were adopted resembled their biological -- but not adoptive -- parents and siblings in their histories of divorce.

Over the years, there's been much speculation on the effects of divorce on the future relationships of children from divorced homes. But this new study takes an objective look at how and if divorce can be “passed down” from generation to generation.

“By recognizing the role that genetics plays in the intergenerational transmission of divorce, therapists may be able to better identify more appropriate targets when helping distressed couples,” says the study's primary author, Jessica Salvatore, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU.

The study suggests that it may be useful for therapists to target some of the more basic personality traits that previous research has suggested are genetically linked to divorce (such as high levels of negative emotionality and low levels of constraint,) to lessen their negative impact on close relationships. "For example, other research shows that people who are highly neurotic tend to perceive their partners as behaving more negatively than they objectively are [as rated by independent observers]," Salvatore says.

Of course, just because divorce is in your family tree, doesn’t mean you’re destined to repeat this inherited behavior. But researcher hope that by exploring family personality traits, individuals may gain insight to help inspire a new legacy of healthier relationships.


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