Sociologists and relationship experts have long known that children whose parents are divorced are more likely to get divorced later in life compared to children from “intact” families. Many have speculated that this was due to such children spending their formative years in an environment that was accepting of divorce. A new study, however, suggests that there may be more than just environmental factors at work in most cases, as researchers have found that genetics may also play a role.
Nature vs. Nurture
The study was a collaborative effort between teams at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden. Together, the researchers looked at data involving 20,000 children who were adopted at a young age, as well as their biological and adoptive parents. The project was intended to examine the common belief that children of divorce are more likely to divorce themselves as adults because they are conditioned to see divorce as normal. The study’s subjects were adopted children so that the team could separate “nature” and “nurture” in its findings.
The research revealed that children who did not know their birth parents or biological siblings tended to have marriage and divorce patterns that matched that of their biological families more than of their adoptive parents. In other words, if a child’s birth parents were divorced, the child was more likely to also get divorced later in life, regardless of his or her adoptive parents’ marital status. The findings led the teams to conclude that genetic influences may have more impact on relationships than most people realize.
Could You Be Destined to Divorce?
Jessica Salvatore, an assistant psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth and one of the study’s authors, recognized that the findings are contradictory to what most people believe about children of divorce—namely, that children emulate their parents’ behavior in regard to relationships. She pointed out that much of the previous research on the matter did not separate the possible impact of genetic factors from environmental and social influences. While children may learn—or fail to learn—effective communication skills from their parents, for example, personality traits such as impulsiveness and neuroticism have been linked to genes.
Salvatore emphasized that the study does not mean that all children of divorced couples will eventually get divorced themselves. She observed that the elevated risk of divorce is similar to that of other genetic risks. “Just as if you had a parent with an alcohol-use disorder,” she said, “you’d also be at increased risk for developing one yourself.”
Charting Your Own Path
No matter what your family’s divorce history may be, you have the power to build and maintain healthy relationships in your own life and to find ways to address marital concerns. If such concerns cannot be resolved, a divorce may be unavoidable. Contact an experienced Kane County divorce attorney to discuss your situation and your available options. Call 630-377-7770 for a free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.