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Can a person’s DNA play a major role in determining how happy he or she will be when married?
New research examined a link between a gene variant and emotional well-being in relationship. Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University conducted the study.
They found the physical length of the gene, known as 5-HTTLPR, predicts how a spouse will respond to the emotional peaks and valleys of married life.
Those who were determined to have two short 5-HTTLPR genes were found to be the more reactive spouse, responding with greater negative emotion in times of turmoil.
Participants with two longer genes did not display the same alternating levels of emotion, both in good times and bad.
“The gene predicts how a spouse
will respond to married life.”
The 5-HTTLPR gene is associated with regulating serotonin levels in the body. We inherit the gene, and its length, from our parents.
The gene difference was also found to affect how much a spouse tolerates conflicts in the marriage, according to the study.
“An enduring mystery is, what makes one spouse so attuned to the emotional climate in a marriage and another so oblivious?” said Berkeley psychologist Robert W. Levenson. “With these new genetic findings, we now understand much more about what determines just how important emotions are for different people.”
The genotypes of more than 100 married participants were examined for the study, compared against observed interactions with their spouse.
“We are always trying to understand the recipe for a good relationship, and emotion keeps coming up as an important ingredient,” Levenson said.
Study researcher Claudia M. Haase added neither of the length variants could be seen as inherently good or bad.
“Each has its advantages and disadvantages,” she said.