Divorce Begets Divorce — but Not Genetically

Indiana University 11 July 2007
The first study to examine genetics as a culprit in the higher-than-usual divorce rate among children of divorced parents found that the parents’ divorce itself, not genes or even problems such as parental substance abuse or delinquency, played a key role in the failed unions. Children of divorced parents are roughly twice as likely to see their relationships end in divorce compared to their peers from intact families. Brian D’Onofrio, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, said that when a host of variables are taken into consideration, such as genetic risks and socioeconomic factors, the actual divorce still accounts for around 66 percent of the increased risk of divorce faced by children of divorced parents.”This means the transmission is not due to psychological or substance abuse problems that are passed from parents to the offspring,” he said. “It’s something very unique about the separation of one’s parents. The societal implications are very important because divorce is such a painful experience for both adults and children. This further suggests that interventions specifically targeted at the consequences of divorce are important for our society.”