New Study Links Divorce Rate to Women’s Oxytocin Levels

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Love isn’t just about poetic, floaty feelings of affection. In fact, those butterflies in your stomach can be attributed to scientific causes. Commonly referred to as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is a naturally-occurring chemical that has a plethora of physical and psychological effects on the body.

Now, research recently presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual meeting in San Diego surmises that a woman’s oxytocin levels might be linked to the incidence of divorce shortly after giving birth.

The study utilized the saliva samples of 341 pregnant women during their first trimester of pregnancy, their third trimester, and again seven to nine weeks after giving birth.

Two years later, the researchers followed up with 188 of the mothers to see how their marriages were doing. In the report, around 90% of the women were still married, and seven women had gotten separated or divorced.

When analyzing the saliva samples, the researchers discovered that women who had lower oxytocin levels during their first trimester were more likely to get divorced within the first few years of their child’s life.

Conversely, for every unit increase in oxytocin during the woman’s first trimester, the odds of marriage survival increased by about seven times. And every unit of oxytocin noted after birth increased a woman’s chances of marriage survival by nine times.”What these data suggest is that lower maternal oxytocin levels associated with the risk of relationship dissolution by the time the child is a toddler,” said Jennifer Bartz, a co-author of the study.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), oxytocin plays a role in maternal bonding, social bonding, sexual pleasure, and marital bonds. If these levels of oxytocin stay high, the research suggests that marital bliss will stay at a high, too.

But the research isn’t compelling enough to attribute oxytocin levels as a causal factor.

“There are lots of good reasons why it doesn’t make sense to stay in a relationship,” Bartz said. “Just because we’ve identified a characteristic in the mother doesn’t mean it’s causal.”

Indeed, marriages can end for all sorts of reasons. But whether it’s the result of oxytocin levels or not, divorce is always a viable option.

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