Virginia Commonwealth University recently announced the results of a new study examining the battle of nature v. nurture in divorce.  According to the new study, “’Genetics, the Rearing Environment, and the Intergenerational Transmission of Divorce: A Swedish National Adoption Study,’ which . . . 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.” 

This finding is noteworthy.  “Nearly all the prior literature emphasized that divorce was transmitted across generations psychologically,” Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., professor of psychiatry and human and molecular genetics in the Department of Psychiatry at VCU’s School of Medicine, said. “Our results contradict that, suggesting that genetic factors are more important.”

These results, then, may have a practical impact on families and couples.  For example, the findings may be valuable to therapists and other professionals working with couples and families.  “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,” Jessica Salvatore, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU, explained.  However, “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.”

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science.


Leslie Spoltore focuses her practice on family law, handling all aspects of the Delaware Family Court’s jurisdiction including, divorce, alimony, property distribution, prenuptial agreements, adoption, guardianship, permanent guardianship, child support, child custody, protection from abuse. She works out of the firm’s Wilmington, DE office and can be reached at 302-840-1110 or at Leslie.Spoltore@Obermayer.com