Study identifies possible genetic link to marital satisfaction


Variation in a specific gene may be linked to traits beneficial for bonding and relationship satisfaction in the early years of a marriage, according to a new study by a psychologist at the University of Arkansas.

Recent research indicates that a variation called “CC” in the CD38 gene is associated with increased levels of gratitude. Extending this line of work, State University psychologist Anastasia Makhanova and her colleagues used data from a study of genotyped newlyweds to determine if there was a correlation between variation in CD38 CC and levels of trust, forgiveness and marital satisfaction. They found that people with the CC variation reported higher levels of perceptions considered beneficial for successful relationships, especially trust.

Marital satisfaction tends to start high and then decline, said Makhanova, an assistant professor of psychology and the study’s first author, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. “We wanted to see if some of the reasons people might have a harder time maintaining relationship satisfaction during the honeymoon period is due to potential underlying genetic predispositions.”

For the work, the researchers studied 142 newlyweds – 71 couples – a subset of a larger group used for further studies. The newlyweds’ DNA was collected three months after their wedding, and they also completed a survey at that time as well as a survey every four months for three years. At the end of the study, the researchers compared the survey results with the CD38 variations and found that those with the specific CC variation reported higher levels of traits corresponding to marriage satisfaction.

“CC individuals felt more grateful to their partner, reported greater trust in their partner, were more forgiving of their partner, and were more satisfied with their marriage than AC / AA individuals,” the researchers wrote.

As the work points to a possible genetic link with marriage satisfaction,

Makhanova notes that this does not mean that those who do not have the CD38 CC variant will not have successful relationships.

“So it’s not that people who don’t have the CC genotype are doomed to have problems,” she said. “It’s just that they’re more likely to have problems in some of these areas, and so these people might have to work a bit more in those areas.”

Reference: Makhanova A, McNulty JK, Eckel LA, Nikonova L, Bartz JA, Hammock EAD. CD38 is associated with cognitions relevant to the bond and relationship satisfaction during the first 3 years of marriage. Sci. Representing. 2021; 11 (1): 2965. do I: 10.1038 / s41598-021-82307-z

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