Your mother’s love life determines how many romantic partners you have: Study finds children inherit their mom’s approach to relationships
- Researchers studied data on thousands of mothers and children for 24 years
- They found a correlation between the numbers of partners a mother had and her child
- The Ohio State team said it’s likely because we learn relationship skills from our mothers
- We also inherit traits that could influence how we interact with people, like depression
- There is no comparable data on fathers so it’s not clear whether the same effect is true, but psychologists told DailyMail.com about way they do
Children tend to have the same number of romantic partners that their mother had – whether they witnessed her relationships or not.
That is according to a study of longitudinal data on more than 7,000 mothers and their biological children in the US since 1979.
Researchers say that the connection is not down to your social status or community, it is most likely that mothers pass relationship skills to their kids, which influence how they interact with everyone, including romantic partners.
There is no longitudinal data on fathers, largely due to the outdated but lingering view that mothers are the most important figure in a household.
Psychologists told DailyMail.com that fathers do have a very profound effect on their kids’ relationships, but since mothers are still the main stay-at-home parent for most Americans, it is likely their influence could still be stronger for now.
Researchers say the findings, based on data of mothers and children in the US since 1979, show mothers pass relationship skills to their kids, which influence how they interact with everyone
The report, published today in the journal PLoSONE, was based on data on more than 7,000 mothers and their biological children from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Child and Young Adult, which tracked the groups for at least 24 years.
The survey featured questions on partnerships, including those they lived with, those they didn’t, those they married, those they divorced.
It meant the team, led by Claire Kamp Dush, associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, was able to cross-reference relationship patterns in the same family line across generations.
Both the number of marriages and the number of cohabiting partners by mothers had similar effects on how many partners their children had, the study found.
Kamp Dush, who has studied marriage trends and traits for years, said that one clear factor is that there are certain heritable traits, such as depression, which impact how we interact with people.
But our parents also provide a blueprint for how to be a social human being. The adults who raise us show us how to show affection, how to argue, how to apologize, how to introduce yourself, how your interactions may vary with older people or different genders, or neighbors or strangers.
Those traits, in turn, influence how we conduct relationships, whether we desire relationships or fear them, and how we instinctively act with someone we care about.
Kamp Dush says that dating has changed a lot – primarily citing the popular theory that ‘our expectations for our partners have gone up over time’ to a ‘ridiculously high’ standard.
But when it comes to picking someone to date, live with or marry, she believes there are some core elements that stay the same, such as how we critique one another.
‘I think some of these basic things that drive our satisfaction never change,’ Kamp Dush told DailyMail.com.
‘If you observe your mom being very critical to her partner or to you, then you take that into your own intimate relationship. We are learning similar ways of being in relationships from our mothers.’
It makes sense that a mother’s skills have such a strong impact on our relationships, according to Shirani M Pathak, licensed psychotherapist and founder of the Center for Soulful Relationships.
‘Children learn by watching,’ Pathak explained to DailyMail.com.
Every time a new client enters her clinic with marriage issues, Pathak soon steers the conversation to ask about how their family related to one another when they were a child.
‘That’s when we see how each person is playing out all these same childhood dynamics,’ she says.
‘We repeat what we know, we replay everything from our childhood.’
Though the Ohio State paper couldn’t shed light on how fathers’ relationships influence their kids, Pathak says that there is no doubt.
After 14 years in relationship and family counseling, she has found little evidence to disprove the myth that women seek men like their fathers for a relationship.
‘I do believe it’s true,’ Pathak says.
‘We are trying to recreate the experience because it’s familiar, it’s what we know. That’s why we will likely end up in relationships like that.’