Is the oxytocin receptor gene the key to a happy marriage?

An image depicting a married couple holding hands.
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Researchers at Binghamton University, New York found that specific gene combinations, or genotypes can influence whether people experience a happy marriage.

The research shows that genetic factors can impact the quality of a marriage, that is, whether the person experiences it as a happy marriage or not. They studied the oxytocin receptor gene specifically.

How does oxytocin affect marriage quality?

They assessed the Oxytocin Receptor gene and how this influences mutual spousal support, a key determinant of marriage quality. The Oxytocin Receptor gene Is related to the regulation and release of oxytocin.

Richard Mattson, associate professor of psychology at Binghamton University, said: “Prior research has hinted that marital quality is, at least partially, impacted by genetic factors, and that oxytocin may be relevant to social support — a critical aspect of intimate partnerships. However, we are the first to provide evidence that variation on specific genes related to oxytocin functioning impact overall marital quality, in part, because they are relevant to how partners provide and receive support from each other.”

Mattson added: “We found that variation at two particular locations on OXTR [the Oxytocin Receptor gene] impacted the observed behaviours of both husbands and wives, and that differences in behaviour across couples had small but cumulative effects on overall evaluations of support, and thus marital quality in general…However, what emerged as most relevant to overall marital quality for both partners was genotypic variation among husbands at a specific location on OXTR. Husbands with a particular genotype, which other researchers associated with signs of social deficits, were less satisfied with the support they were provided. Being less satisfied with the support they got from their wives was also associated with being less satisfied with their marriage.”

Future research on the relationship between OXTR and a happy marriage

The researchers have expressed their hope that this research is the foundation for replication and further of OXTR as a determinant of marital satisfaction. They also want the study to encourage further research into the role of genetic factors in interpersonal processes, and how this impacts overall quality of marriages.

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