It's well established that children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced than the children of parents who stayed together.
But a new study found that the link does not exist for adopted children, meaning there's a possibility that the likelihood of divorce is genetic.
To further test their genetic hypothesis, the researchers looked at 82 698 people who grew up with their biological mother but had an absent father.
Working with colleagues at Lund University in Sweden the team set out to answer the question: Why does divorce run in families?
"However, these previous studies haven't adequately controlled for, or examined, something else in addition to the environment that divorcing parents transmit to their children: genes".
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Co-author of the study, Dr Jessica Salvatore, assistant professor in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU said that they found consistent evidence that genetic factors primarily explained the intergenerational transmission of divorce.
All the theories related to the research are notable due to the reason that they diverge from all other predominant narratives in the literature of divorce, which show that the divorced parents' offspring are more likely to have a divorce.
However their own divorce history was more similar to their mother's, suggesting the person they grew up with still mattered to a degree above their genetic inheritance.
"Nearly all the prior literature emphasised that divorce was transmitted across generations psychologically".
'Our results contradict that, suggesting that genetic factors are more important'.
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By recognising the role that genetics plays in the intergenerational transmission of divorce, therapists may be able to better identify more appropriate targets when helping distressed couples, Salvatore said.
It had been assumed that this may have been down to environmental factors, and the normalisation of divorce to a developing child.
'Our study is, at present, the largest to do this, ' said Dr Salvatore. She said that if a couple are undergoing marriage guidance therapy, and one or both are children of divorced parents, the therapist might then focus on strengthening interpersonal skills.
But if divorce is genetically influenced, this may be a waste of time.
Instead, Dr Salvatore suggests, more time should be spent exploring basic personality traits which have been previously linked to divorce, such as high levels of negativity and low levels of constraint.
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'So, addressing these underlying, personality-driven cognitive distortions through cognitive-behavioral approaches may be a better strategy than trying to foster commitment'.