Is There a Divorce Gene? What Role Does Genetics Play in Divorce?

Ample research indicates that children with divorced parents are more likely to also divorce. Previously, experts assumed that children simply modeled their parents’ relationship patterns, thereby increasing the likelihood of dissolution. New evidence, however, turns this version of nature versus nurture on its head. Genetics likely plays a greater role in divorce than once assumed, but that doesn’t mean a failed relationship is destined if you have the ‘divorce gene.’

What the Research Says

Researchers attempted to parse out the roles of nature and nurture in a study of over 20,000 Swedish adults, all of whom were adopted as children. The study’s groundbreaking conclusion: participants closely followed biological family members in terms of divorce likelihood, rather than adoptive parents. No matter how strong their adoptive parents’ relationships, adults with divorce-prone biological parents were likely to follow suit.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Jessica Salvatore, PhD. believes that hereditary personality traits such as impulsiveness and neuroticism may be to blame; studies indicate that these and other personality markers lead to divorce. That being said, these traits don’t guarantee failed relationships, much as predisposition to substance abuse doesn’t always result in addiction. Likewise, biological children with divorced parents may still be more likely to divorce even if they possess no genetic predisposition.

If You Think You Have the Divorce Gene…

Does your family have a history of divorce? It’s only understandable to be wary of marriage if your parents, grandparents, or siblings ended their marriages or long-term relationships. Do your research before you swear off all nuptials. Who divorced, and why? Note behavioral patterns (such as infidelity or addiction) that contributed to multiple divorces in your family. Determine how you can avoid these pitfalls.

Still worried? A prenuptial agreement could grant you much-needed peace of mind, especially if you’re concerned about finances or arrangements for children you and your spouse had prior to tying the knot. The better prepared you are or potential problems in married, the less likely you are to follow family-based divorce patterns—and the less you’ll suffer if divorce ultimately proves necessary.

Whether you attribute your divorce to nature or nurture, you deserve counsel from a knowledgeable and experienced family lawyer. DiPietro Law Group offers exceptional family services for divorcing clients.

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