If you’ve spent what seems like forever single or you can’t seem to stay in a relationship for long, you might want to thank your mum.
A new national study suggests that people whose mums had more partners – whether married or cohabiting – often followed the same path.
It suggests mothers may pass on personality traits and relationship habits that make their children more or less likely to form stable relationships.
Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study from Ohio State University, said: “Our results suggest that mothers may have certain characteristics that make them more or less desirable on the marriage market and better or worse at relationships. Children inherit and learn those skills and behaviours and may take them into their own relationships.”
While past research has found that children of parents who divorce are also more likely to divorce, this new study broadens the picture.
“It’s not just divorce now,” Kamp Dush said. “Many children are seeing their parents divorce, start new cohabiting relationships, and having those end as well. All of these relationships can influence children’s outcomes, as we see in this study.”
Data for the study came from the two national surveys in the US and followed the same participants for at least 24 years. All the people in one survey were the biological children of women in the other survey, so the researchers could get a long-term look at the number of partners people had in both generations.
The study found the number of marriages and cohabiting partners that mums had was often similar to the number of partners their children had.
So why do mothers and their children share partnering trends? “What our results suggest is that mothers may pass on their marriageable characteristics and relationship skills to their children - for better or worse,” Kamp Dush said.
“It could be that mothers who have more partners don’t have great relationship skills, or don’t deal with conflict well, or have mental health problems, each of which can undermine relationships and lead to instability. Whatever the exact mechanisms, they may pass these characteristics on to their children, making their children’s relationships less stable.”