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J Abnorm Psychol. 2005 Nov;114(4):570-86.

A genetically informed study of marital instability and its association with offspring psychopathology.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA.


Parental divorce is associated with a number of emotional and behavioral problems in young-adult offspring, but theoretical and empirical considerations suggest that the relation may be partially or fully accounted for by passive gene-environment correlation or environmental selection characteristics. The current study used the Children of Twins Design to explore whether shared environmental or genetic factors confound the relationship between parental marital instability and measures of psychopathology. Comparisons of the offspring of adult twins in Australia on 3 factors of abnormal behavior, including drug and alcohol, behavioral, and internalizing problems, suggest that environmental influences associated with divorce account for the higher rates of psychopathology. The results are consistent with a causal connection between marital instability and psychopathology in young-adult offspring.

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