‘Divorce gene’ blamed for strained marital relations

September 2nd, 2008 - 1:34 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 2 (IANS) Incompatible? Unfaithful? Blame it on the genes, says a new study conducted by Swedish researchers.The scientists researched data on twins and discovered a “divorce gene”, which they say is linked to the breakdown of relationships between men and women.

They say the gene plays an important role in determining how the brain responds to a chemical that acts as a catalyst in the bonding process between man and woman.

The discovery raises the possibility that scientists could one day develop drugs to target the gene in an attempt to prevent marriages from falling apart, reports The Telegraph.

Scientist Hasse Walum and his colleagues at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, used Sweden’s Twin and Offspring Study, which includes data on more than 550 twins and their partners or spouses. They looked at a protein in the body that responds to a chemical called vasopressin, which is central to human bonding.

The researchers then compared the genes in that area to men’s scores on the partner bonding scale, which is designed to estimate the strength of a person’s attachment to his or her spouse or partner.

They found that men with one version of the gene had low scores and were less likely to be married. The wives of those who were married were also less satisfied with their marriage than women whose husbands did not have that genetic variant.

Those with two copies of it were twice as likely to report having had a marital crisis in the past year, the team reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Women married to men who carry one or two copies of (the gene) were, on average, less satisfied with their relationship than women married to men who didn’t carry it,” said Walum.

However, Walum stressed that the gene could not be used to predict with any real accuracy how someone is likely to behave in a future relationship.

Previous studies of twins suggest that both the tendency to be unfaithful and the likelihood of divorce are more likely to be inherited than major illnesses such as high blood pressure and cancer. Scientists hope that greater knowledge of the effect vasopressin has on human relationships will lead to a better understanding of what causes diseases characterised by problems with social interaction, such as autism.

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