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New Study Suggests Divorce May Be Hereditary

New Study Suggests Divorce May Be Hereditary

By M. Scott Gordon

Are some people in the Chicago area predisposed to divorce? In other words, no matter how carefully we consider issues of marriage, are some of us more likely to get divorced than others as a result of genetics? According to a recent article in Health Magazine, a new study argues that “adult children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves, compared to those who grew up in two-parents homes.” The study will appear in the journal Psychological Science, and it suggests that some people may be predisposed to divorce in a way that others are not. As the article puts it, “an increased risk for divorce may be coded in our genes.”

Could genetics actually result in higher divorce rates among certain persons?

Details of the Recent Divorce Study

The recent study was a joint effort by psychologists in the United States and in Sweden. The researchers analyzed data from about 20,000 adults, all of whom had been adopted. What did they find? They determined that “the adoptees were more likely to resemble their biological parents and siblings when it came to their histories of divorce, not their adoptive ones.” In other words, it appeared as though there may be something innate, or genetic, that predisposes a person to divorce.

Dr. Jessica Salvatore, a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and one of the authors of the study, noted that the findings go “against commonly held beliefs that divorce runs in families because children watch and learn from their parents and grow up to mimic their behavior.” Indeed, even Salvatore indicated that she was surprised by the results of the research.

Generic Personality Factors That Can Contribute to Divorce

While there has been evidence to suggest that children who come from divorced households may be more likely to experience divorce themselves later in life, Salvatore emphasized that “those studies haven’t controlled for the fact that those parents are also contributing genes to their children.” In other words, researchers have focused on studies that look at children from divorced homes and children from intact homes, beginning with the assumption that a child’s environment can play a role in determining whether the child is more likely to get divorced as an adult. Salvatore underscored that her study, which relies on information about adopted children, helps to elucidate ways in which the reason that people get divorced “may have more to do with nature than with nurture.”

To be clear, the recent study is not suggesting that individuals have a gene that leads to divorce. Rather, they are suggesting that certain personality factors that often play roles in determining whether someone stays married or gets divorced can be genetic. For instance, personality factors such as “neuroticism and impulsiveness” can be genetic, and as Salvatore clarifies, “we know from other studies that these are factors that contribute to divorce.” More precisely, when someone has these personality traits, it can be more difficult for the person to remain in a relationship, or for another person to want to remain in a marriage with someone who is neurotic or impulsive.

Such genetic factors are not absolute predictors, but they can help us to better understand how a person’s genetic makeup in addition to environmental factors can play a role in determining risk for divorce.

Seek Advice from a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

Do you have questions about filing for divorce? A Chicago divorce attorney can speak with you today. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates for more information.