A recent study at the Ohio State University suggests that people whose mothers had more number of partners usually follow the same path. Researchers revealed that relationship skills and personality traits of a mother may pass on to the children, on which they are more or less likely to establish stable relationships. Results of the study were detailed in a paper and published in the recent issue of journal PLOS ONE. According to lead author Claire Kamp Dush, mothers may have particular traits that make them better or worse in the relationships and more or less desirable in their married life. Children are likely to inherit such traits or learn those skills and may take them forward into their relationships, she added.
While various previous researches have suggested that children of divorced parents are more likely to be separated with their partners, the new findings will broaden these studies, Kamp Dush said. Now, it’s not just the divorce, many children are witnessing their parents’ divorce, entering into a new relationship, and having those end as well, according to the researchers, all of these events could influence offspring’s outcomes.
These data were collected from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Child and Young Adult (NLSY79 CYA) which tracked the same study participants for about 24 years.
All the participants involved in the second survey were the biological children of the former survey. This enabled the researchers to get a closer look at the number of partners for longer period of time in both the generations. Apart from marriages and divorces, the surveys included information on cohabiting relationships and dissolutions. These surveys are conducted by Ohio State’s Center for Human Resource Research. The new study included about 7,152 participants of the NLSY79 CYA survey.
Number of marriages as well as number of the cohabiting partners of the mother had similar effects on the number of partners their offspring had, according to the study. Further, the results showed that siblings exposed to mother’s cohabitation for longer time had higher number of partners as compared to their siblings who had seen less cohabitation.
Children tend to find cohabitation as an attractive and lower-commitment kind of relationship if their mother had been in one for a longer period, authors of the study said. Since cohabitation relationships have higher possibilities of break-up, it may lead to more number of partners, the study reported.
In the study, three theories were discussed to find out reasons behind offspring following their mother in terms of number of relationships. One theory involved economic instability associated with divorce and cohabitation dissolutions which can lead to poorer offspring outcomes and difficult transition to adulthood, resulting into unstable relationships. Although these factors were related to number of partners, it did not reduced the link between mother and child in their relationships.
In the second theory, it is suggested that observing the mother go through divorces and dissolutions leads the offspring to have more relationships for them. However, the children did not have statistically more number of partners, according to this theory.
The study suggested that for better or worse, mothers may pass on their relationships skills and characteristics to the offspring, according to Kamp Dush, mother’s instability in relationship could be due to lack of great relationships skills, inability to deal with conflict, or mental health problems. Irrespective of the mechanisms, the characteristics may pass on the children, leading to an unstable relationships for themselves.