Posted on Mar 14, 2013

Could an affinity for divorce and marital strife be written in your genes and present before you are even born? According to new research taking place at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, this may at least partially be the case. 

Scientists at the institute looked at the genetic makeup of 1,800 women who were either married to or living with their partners for more than five years. Specifically, they studied a gene, A-allele, which affects an oxytocin receptor. Oxytocin is a hormone that produces feelings of love and closeness—and which helps women bond with spouses and children. The hormone is released during activities like sex, breastfeeding, and childbirth. 

The study found that women with this certain oxytocin receptor gene were 50 percent more likely than those without the gene to self-report marital problems, breakups, and divorces. Researchers believe this is because women with the gene have more trouble bonding to their spouses on a chemical level. Women with the gene also get married less often and are more often to report having difficulty bonding with others emotionally. 

Another study by the Karolinska Institute—conducted five years ago—found that men who have a gene associated with autism and social issues are also more likely to report marital problems or to have unsuccessful marriages. 

In coming years, and with more research, scientists may have an even clearer idea of how genes are linked to divorce and which aspects of relationships may be affected by our innate genetic makeup.

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Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington