Members in the Media
From: The Economist

Genes play a role in the likelihood of divorce

THAT the children of divorced parents are more likely, when they grow up, to get divorced themselves is well known. What is not known is how much this tendency is the result of nurture (with children manifesting, in later life, behaviours learned from their parents), and how much it is caused by nature (with children inheriting from divorced parents the sorts of genes that lead to marriage-breaking behaviour). That genes are important has, though, now been confirmed by a study published in Psychological Science by Jessica Salvatore and Kenneth Kendler of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioural Genetics.

To explore the role of genes Dr Salvatore and Dr Kendler turned to the Swedish national registries. These databases store, for all residents of Sweden, information on sex, year of birth, year of death, marital status, criminal activity, education and alcohol abuse. They also contain details of both the biological and the adoptive parents of adopted children.

Read the whole story (subscription may be required): The Economist

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Your research is very interesting. This is especially due to the surprising result. I would have never imagined that the likelihood for getting divorced is nature rather than nurture. Nevertheless, I have a hypothesis where this could come from.

Being in some relationship involves (in most cases) three stages: sexual attraction, being in love, and long-term bonding (sometimes referred to as love). A couple of years ago especially the last two states have been proven scientifically by testing hormone levels and brain scanning. So one can pin point them. Evolutionary, long-term bonding is very important. It is the only guarantee that both parents take care of the kids. At least 100,000 years ago it would have been next to impossible to raise a kid by a single mother. So it is very likely that the ability for long-term bonding is genetically determined. (In the last thousand years it became at least possible to raise a kid without a fa-ther. So a “genetic defect” preventing long term-term bonding may be increasing)

In order to prove this hypothesis one should examine couples being in long-term relationship, whether or not they are truly in love (long-term bonding) or just pretending it. In parallel one could check their genes. If one finds significant differences, one may discover a “love-gene.” A genetic analysis of elder people being either divorced (maybe several times) or in one relationship their entire live may also find the “love-gene.”

Michael Grabinski
Neu-Ulm University, Germany

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