A genetically informed study of the intergenerational transmission of marital instability

Brian M. D'Onofrio, Eric Turkheimer, Robert E. Emery, K. Paige Harden, Wendy S. Slutske, Andrew C. Heath, Pamela A.F. Madden, Nicholas G. Martin

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39 Scopus citations


Environmental or genetic influences, or both could account for the increased risk of divorce among the offspring of separated parents. Previous studies have used covariates to statistically control for confounds, but the present research is the first genetically informed study of the topic. The investigation used the Children of Twins Design with twins, their spouses, and their young adult offspring (n = 2,310) from the Australian Twin Registry to test whether selection on the basis of genetic or shared environment factors accounted for part of the intergenerational association. The analyses also controlled for measured characteristics of both parents. The results suggest that both environmentally mediated and genetic risk account for the intergenerational transmission, supporting the roles of both selection and causation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-809
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Divorce
  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Multilevel models
  • Selection effects


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