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Are Some People Genetically Destined for Divorce?

Are Some People Genetically Destined for Divorce?

Some surmise that children of divorce may experience a greater chance of divorce when they grow up because of their environment. Recent studies and news reports suggest that when it comes to divorce history may indeed repeat itself but not for the reasons you may think.

Studies and prior literature emphasized that divorce was transmitted across generations psychologically and as a result of environmental factors.

However, recent studies  “contradict that, suggesting that genetic factors are more important.”

Jessica Salvatore, Ph.D. reports that:

The study’s findings are notable because they diverge from the predominant narrative in divorce literature, which suggests that the offspring of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves because they see their parents struggling to manage conflict or lacking the necessary commitment, and they grow up to internalize that behavior and replicate it in their own relationships.

[The study] analyzed Swedish population registries and found that people who were adopted resembled their biological — but not adoptive — parents and siblings in their histories of divorce.

By recognizing 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 states:

“At present, the bulk of evidence on why divorce runs in families points to the idea that growing up with divorced parents weakens your commitment to and the interpersonal skills needed for marriage. So, if a distressed couple shows up in a therapist’s office and finds, as part of learning about the partners’ family histories, that one partner comes from a divorced family, then the therapist may make boosting commitment or strengthening interpersonal skills a focus of their clinical efforts.”

So how does free will and fault play into divorce in light of these findings?

In Ontario, we operate a no-fault divorce process:

Under the Divorce Act, you do not need to prove that your spouse was at fault in order to get a divorce. If the reason you are asking for a divorce is marriage breakdown, shown by one year of living apart, either of you can request a divorce. It does not matter which one of you decided to leave. In fact, the law gives you the choice of applying to the court together to ask for a divorce.
However, if the reason you are asking for a divorce is marriage breakdown because of adultery or mental or physical cruelty, you will have to have proof of what happened.

As a result, someone’s genetic disposition, as it relates divorce, will not shape the outcome of the divorce proceeding. But as Dr Salvatore’s study suggest, this information would be helpful in therapy and focusing clinical efforts on boosting commitment or strengthening interpersonal skills.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at

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