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Genetic and environmental contributions to relationships and divorce attitudes

By Peter K. Hatemia, , , Rose McDermottb, Lindon Eavesc, d
Personality and Individual Differences
Volume 72
January 2015

Attitudes toward divorce are believed to play a critical role in marital quality and the probability of divorce later in life. They are traditionally understood to result from social, demographic and environmental factors, including personal experience in relationships, family values, religion and economic incentives. An alternative line of research suggests that genetically influenced psychological dispositions have an important role in divorce and other relationship attitudes as well. The integration of these two lines of research however, remains embryonic. Here we address this lacuna by exploring how social and genetic factors correlate with each other, and are modified by one another. Specifically, we find that environmental factors and life events, such as going through a divorce, moderate reported genetic influences on attitudes toward divorce. The reduction in the heritability of divorce attitudes by life events is complex however. We find that the genetic influence to select into or experience a divorce is correlated with the genetic influence toward divorce attitudes. In addition, we also identify notable sex differences in the effect of divorce itself on subsequent attitudes toward divorce. Specifically, the importance of personal experience increases among women, while the importance of familial factors increases for men.

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