New Study Links Gene Variant to Marital Satisfaction

What makes some people more prone to wedded bliss or sorrow than others? Researchers at the University of California (UC) Berkeley and Northwestern University have found a major clue in our DNA. A gene involved in the regulation of serotonin can predict how much our emotions affect our relationships, according to a new study that may be the first to link genetics, emotions, and marital satisfaction. The study was conducted at UC Berkeley. “An enduring mystery is, what makes one spouse so attuned to the emotional climate in a marriage, and another so oblivious?” said UC Berkeley psychologist Dr. Robert W. Levenson, senior author of the study published online on October 7, 2013 in the journal Emotion. “With these new genetic findings, we now understand much more about what determines just how important emotions are for different people.” Specifically, researchers found a link between relationship fulfillment and a gene variant, or “allele,” known as 5-HTTLPR (serotonin-transporter-linked polymorphic region). Identified in the mid-1990s, 5-HTTLPR has been extensively investigated, particularly in connection with neuropsychiatric disorders. All humans inherit a copy of this gene variant from each parent. Study participants with two short 5-HTTLPR alleles were found to be most unhappy in their marriages when there was a lot of negative emotion, such as anger and contempt, and most happy when there was positive emotion, such as humor and affection. By contrast, those with one or two long alleles were far less bothered by the emotional tenor of their marriages. “We are always trying to understand the recipe for a good relationship, and emotion keeps coming up as an important ingredient,” said Dr.
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