Tag Archives: divorce


Most people tend to mirror their mother’s number of romantic partners

When it comes to romance, it seems we all agree — mother knows best.


Image via Pixabay.

A national study found that we often follow our mothers’ relationship patterns. People whose mother had a greater number of partners (be them in a marriage or cohabiting relationship) were more likely to have more partners than their peers. The authors say it’s likely that the personality traits and social skill set mothers pass on to children make them more or less likely to form stable relationships.

Parental guidance

“Our results suggest that mothers may have certain characteristics that make them more or less desirable on the marriage market and better or worse at relationships,” said Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study and associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.

“Children inherit and learn those skills and behaviors and may take them into their own relationships.”

Dush says that the study expands on previous findings regarding the link between family dynamics and relationship patterns. For example, a lot of prior research found that children from divorced couples are more likely to divorce themselves — but the current study broadens the picture. “It’s not just divorce now,” Dush explains.

“Many children are seeing their parents divorce, start new cohabiting relationships, and having those end as well,” she said. “All of these relationships can influence children’s outcomes, as we see in this study.”

The study drew on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Child and Young Adult (NLSY79 CYA), run by the Ohio State’s Center for Human Resource Research. The (7,152) people in the NSL79 CYA survey were the biological children of women in the NLSY79, allowing researchers to analyze long-term relationship patterns and the number of partners over both generations — the surveys included information on marriage, divorce, cohabiting relationships, and their break-ups. Both studies tracked each participant for at least 24 years.

The team reports that a mother’s number of marriages and cohabiting partners both had similar effects on how many partners their children had. One key difference between the two was that older siblings, who were exposed to their mother’s cohabiting relationships for longer, went on to have more partners than younger siblings — who were less exposed to the relationships, the team explains.

But why?

Mother with daughter.

Image via Pixabay.

“You may see cohabitation as an attractive, lower-commitment type of relationship if you’ve seen your mother in such a relationship for a longer time,” Kamp Dush said. “That may lead to more partners since cohabitating relationships are more likely to break-up.”

The paper also treats three theories about why children tend to follow their mothers’ relationship patterns:

When parents break up, the family or household loses one source of income. Economic hardship associated with divorce can lead to poorer child outcomes and a more difficult transition to adulthood. These kids are then more likely to have more unstable relationships as adults. However; while the team did find a relationship between economic instability and one’s number of partners, controlling for economic background didn’t have any significant effect on the mother-child link in the number of partners. This suggests that while money mattered, it wasn’t the main reason why so many people follow the same relationship patterns as their mothers.

The second theory proposes that people simply learn by example. Actually witnessing your mother going through one or more divorces or break-ups leads you to have more partners yourself. Should this be true, older half-siblings who saw their mother going through multiple relationships should be more at risk of engaging with multiple partners — but they’re not, the researchers say. The team didn’t find a statistically greater number of partners for these kids compared to younger siblings who did not experience instability.

“What our results suggest is that mothers may pass on their marriageable characteristics and relationship skills to their children — for better or worse,” Kamp Dush said. “It could be that mothers who have more partners don’t have great relationship skills, or don’t deal with conflict well, or have mental health problems, each of which can undermine relationships and lead to instability.”

“Whatever the exact mechanisms, they may pass these characteristics on to their children, making their children’s relationships less stable.”

The paper “The intergenerational transmission of partnering” has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.


Divorce risk rises with proportion of opposite-sex individuals at work


Credit: Pixabay.

Until the latter half of the twentieth century, divorce was considered scandalous and taboo, a dirty secret to be swept under the rug. But, as the years passed, the public’s perception of divorce has gradually shifted into an almost casual fact of day to day life. For instance, in the United States, about 48% of marriages end in divorce within 20 years.

There are various factors that influence the rate of divorce, among them are age, income, education, and — according to a new study published in the journal Biology Letters — the gender-ratio at the workplace.

Researchers at the University of Stockholm combed through Danish register data on individuals who married during 1981–2002 and actively worked in this period. After controlling for age at and duration of marriage, education, and parity, the researchers found that “a higher proportion of opposite-sex individuals in one’s occupational sector is associated with higher divorce risk.” These findings held for both genders, although the association was more significant for men and varies by education.

The sectors associated with the highest divorce risks for both men and women are the hotel and restaurant and manpower sectors, while low divorce risks are found among men and women in farming, pharmaceutical, and library sectors. The association was twice as strong among men with the highest level of formal education as it was among those with the lowest level. Interestingly, among women “the relationship is reversed and highly educated women have barely any increase in divorce risk in more male-biased sectors,” the researchers reported.

“Especially high divorce risks—for both sexes—in the hotel and restaurant sector and low risks in the library and farming sectors might be due to different personality types seeking to work in such sectors, different levels of stress in the work environment or the level of interpersonal interactions,” the authors wrote.

Excluding the influence of workplace gender-ratio, the researchers uncovered some interesting general patterns of divorce among the Danish population.

  • The divorce rate was 40% lower for people who married after age 40 than those who married between the age of 16 and 22.
  • People outside of Copenhagen, the capital and largest city in the country, had a 30% lower risk of divorce than those living within the city’s limits.
  • Highly education people had a 50% lower divorce risk than those with a lower education.

The findings are correlative, meaning there’s no reason to believe that a person who works alongside many individuals of the opposite sex will necessarily break their marriage. On the other hand, the association is significant. It may be that an abundance of members of the opposite sex may be just too tempting for some people, and cheating is one of the main reasons why marriages fall apart. Regarding the education-bias, it may be that men feel more attracted to women with similar educational backgrounds. For women, this doesn’t seem to be nearly as important.

Another caveat that readers ought to be aware of is that the study is limited to Danish individuals, so the association between divorce rate and workplace gender-ratios might not hold among other populations.

“Many studies of relationship stability and sector or workplace sex ratios come from a US context, where costs and benefits of divorce as well as selection into female labour-force participation may differ from the Nordic context. We have shown that even in the egalitarian Danish setting, there is a slight gender difference as the sector sex ratio appears more strongly associated with divorce among men than women, and is barely noticeable for highly educated women. Future research should explore both partners’ alternative partner options simultaneously to uncover what
circumstances lead to divorce,” the researchers concluded.