New research has raised some important questions about a possible link between body chemistry and the likelihood of divorce
. It seems that women with low levels of a particular hormone during and immediately following pregnancy are much more likely to get divorced.
Oxytocin Promotes Bonding
For the last several decades, there has been increased scientific attention being paid to the hormone oxytocin, particularly as it relates to mother-child relationships. Sometimes called the “love hormone” or the “cuddle hormone,” the release of oxytocin has been shown to be positively associated with maternal motivation and the feeling of a connection between a mother and her child. While the hormone is present and thought to have some effect on men, its biggest impact is primarily to women and children.
In the hours and days after childbirth, oxytocin is known to help the mother’s body shrink her uterus and to trigger lactation. Previous studies have also found that higher levels of oxytocin during pregnancy also predicted a mother’s inclination to “engage in bonding behaviors such as singing to or bathing her baby” once the child was born.
While the new study has not been formally published yet, it was presented to an audience at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology last month in San Diego. The study’s co-author Jennifer Bartz, a psychologist from McGill University in Montreal, admitted that her sample size was relatively small, but that the findings suggest a relationship between chemical, physiological, and psychological factors.
Bartz and her team collected saliva samples from more than 340 pregnant women at standardized intervals: once during the first trimester of pregnancy, once during the third trimester, and once seven to nine weeks after giving birth. The samples were analyzed for oxytocin levels. The team then followed up with the mothers two and half years later. They found that 10 percent of the women who had been in relationships at the time of the child’s birth had already divorced or broken up at the two and half year mark. Bartz’s team also discovered that each of the seven women had lower than average oxytocin levels during the first trimester and during the post-partum period.
More Research Needed
The researchers did not look much deeper into the relationship concerns that may have contributed to a participant’s divorce. Nor was the role of the mother's partner taken into account. The team also acknowledged that the link between oxytocin and divorce may not be as direct as the study suggests. “Just because we’ve identified a characteristic in the mother doesn’t mean it’s causal,” Bartz said. She believes that a study that looked at couples, and the dynamic of personal relationships around the mother “would probably give us a lot of insight.”
If you are considering divorce for any reason, especially if you are the parent of a small child, it is important to seek responsible advice from an experienced Kane County family law attorney. We can help you find the resolution and the peace of mind you need as you look toward building a better future for yourself and for your child. Call 630-377-7770 today to schedule your free initial consultation.