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Can Genes Affect Your Marriage?

New research performed at Binghamton University, State University of New York found that the quality of your marriage could be influenced by your genetics.

The research team recruited 79 couples. Each individual was asked to identify their most significant personal problem—not related to their partner or their partner’s family. The topics were discussed for 10 minutes and recorded. Later, the footage was coded for how support was provided and received between each couple. Additionally, the couples completed questionnaires about the perceived quality of support that they received. Saliva samples for genotyping were also collected.

The research team was looking at whether differing genotypes of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) influenced how partners support each other. OXTR was the focus because it is related to the regulation of oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of attachment and love.

The leader of the research team, Binghamton University Associate Professor of Psychology Richard Mattson, indicated that his team’s study was the first to provide evidence that variation on genes related to the function of oxytocin impact overall marital quality.

Mattson states, “We found that variation at two particular locations on OXTR impacted the observed behaviors of both husbands and wives, and that differences in behavior across couples had small but cumulative effects on overall evaluations of support, and thus marital quality in general.” What emerged as most relevant in the study was genotypic variation in husbands at a specific location on OXTR. Husbands with this articular genotype—which other researchers have associated with signs of social deficit—were less satisfied with the report they received from their partner.

The research team hopes that this encourages further research on the topic of genotypic variation, as well as how our own genetic makeup shapes who we are and how our relationships function. The study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

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