Can Genetics Predict Divorce?

Are some individuals more likely to get divorced than others as a result of genetics? The question might sound like a preposterous one upon first consideration, but researchers in the field of psychology take it seriously. Indeed, according to a news release from Science Daily, a journal article in Psychological Science argues that divorce may run in families. Yet the reason for this is not simply that divorce itself is genetic. Rather, the authors of the study suggest that some of the personality traits that tend to be predictors of divorce are genetic. How can this kind of research help Michigan families to understand divorce and the role that genetics might play in the likelihood of a successful marriage?

Effect of Divorce on Children

One of the key findings of the study is that children of parents who had divorced are more prone to divorce in the future when compared to children who lived in families with two parents, and that the reason for this concerns genetic makeup. Why is this finding so significant? Previous studies have also assessed the rate at which children of divorced parents end up getting divorced themselves. Those studies, too, have concluded that children of divorced parents are more prone to end up divorced than children who are raised in an intact household.

Yet many of those previous studies assumed the reason for this was that children of divorced parents witness their parents having difficulty managing conduct or not possessing the required commitment, and they grow up to reproduce that behavior in their own relationships. The new study, conducted by research at Lund University in Sweden and the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) contend that "genetic factors are the primary explanation." In other words, nature prevails over nurture, or, to put it another way, genes have more to do with the outcome than a person's environment.

How Genetic Factors Play a Role in Predicting a Child's Likelihood of Divorce

According to Dr. Jessica Salvatore, an assistant professor in VCU's Department of Psychology and one of the authors of the study, they uncovered data showing that genetic factors explained the intergenerational transmission of divorce. The key distinction between this study and previous ones, according to both Salvatore and Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, is that divorce is not "transmitted across generations psychologically." To be clear, the previous studies we mentioned believed psychological reasons primarily explained intergenerational transmission of divorce, while this study argues that genetic reasons primarily explain it.

Those genetic traits, like we mentioned, are tied to predictive traits for divorce, "such as high levels of negative emotionality and low levels of constraint." Why is this study important for individuals who are going through divorce, or children of divorced parents who now may be considering divorce themselves? The findings can help therapists to target issues affecting couples in these situations. For examples, as the study explains, if a therapist learns that one party who is contemplating a potentially contentious divorce also had parents who divorced, then the therapist may focus on increasing commitment or developing interpersonal skills a focus as part of their clinical efforts. In sum, it may be possible to repair the marriage with this knowledge, or to lessen the contentiousness of the divorce proceedings.

A Michigan Divorce Lawyer Can Assist with Your Case

Are you contemplating divorce? An experienced Michigan divorce attorney can speak with you today. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins for more information about how we assist Michigan residents with a wide variety of divorce matters.