A Genetically Informed Study of the Processes Underlying the Association Between Parental Marital Instability and Offspring Adjustment

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Abstract

Parental divorce is associated with problematic offspring adjustment, but the relation may be due to shared genetic or environmental factors. One way to test for these confounds is to study offspring of twins discordant for divorce. The current analyses used this design to separate the mechanisms responsible for the association between parental divorce, experienced either before or after the age of 16, and offspring well-being. The results were consistent with a causal role of divorce in earlier initiation of sexual intercourse and emotional difficulties, in addition to a greater probability of educational problems, depressed mood, and suicidal ideation. In contrast, the increased risk for cohabitation and earlier initiation of drug use was explained by selection factors, including genetic confounds.

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