Why Your Mother Has A Big Role In The Stability Of Your Romantic Relationships

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Why Your Mother Has A Big Role In The Stability Of Your Romantic Relationships

A study stated that the chance of having a stable relationship is based on the personality that an individual inherited to their mother. / Photo by: Getty Images


You are likely to follow your mother’s path. Well, at least regarding the number of partners you are likely to have. According to a new study on mother-child relationships, the chances of one forming a stable relationship highly depends on the personality traits and relationship skills that one’s mother has passed on to them, hence the conclusion your number of romantic partners mirrors your mother’s.

The national study published in the PLOS ONE was conducted by a team from The Ohio State University led by Claire Kamp Dush, an associate professor of human sciences at the university. The study found that people whose mothers had multiple partners married or cohabiting often followed the same path.

According to Kamp Dush, their study findings showed that mothers are better or worse at relationships depending on certain traits that make them either less or more desirable in the marriage market. She adds that children tend to inherit these traits, behaviors, and skills and end up taking them into their relationships.

Previous researches have documented how divorce affects the involved children by increasing their likely hood to also divorce. However, Kamp Dush claims that their study broadens the picture. For instance, it is more than just seeing parent’s divorce, children also pick on how they start new cohabiting relationships and how they also end. “All of these relationships can influence children’s outcomes, as we see in this study.” Kamp Dush said

The researchers had data of participants who had been followed for at least 24 years. They sourced the data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child and Young Adult (NLSY79 CYA), both run by the Center for Human Resource Research, Ohio.

The surveys gave a long-term look at two generations, the children and their parents. Therefore, all participants in NSL79 were biological mothers of children in the NSL79 CYA survey. Both surveys had information on marriage, divorce, cohabiting relationships as well as dissolutions. The survey on the children, NSL79 CYA, included 7152 people. The study found that both the number of cohabiting partners as well as marriages by the mothers reflected on their children’s number of partners. In addition, children who were exposed to their mother’s cohabitation for an extended amount of time were found to have more partners than those who were exposed to less or no cohabitation.

Kamp Dush believes children who have seen their mothers in a cohabitation relationship for a long time are likely to see this as an attractive, lower-commitment kind of relationship. Due to the likelihood of many cohabitating relationships breaking up, this will only lead to the sibling having more partners.


An individual will more likely be like their mother if they saw their mother had partners or is in a cohabitation relationship. / Photo by: Getty Images


Why Children Follow their Mother’s Path

The study came up with 3 theories trying to explain why children follow their mothers when it comes to relationships. The first theory analyses the economic instability associated with relationship dissolutions. When most people dissolve relationships, both in instances of divorce and cohabitation, one partner is likely to lose their income. The economic hardship that follows leads to poorer child outcomes making it difficult for these siblings to transition to adulthood. Even worse, it will likely lead to them having unstable partnerships in adulthood. Therefore, there is a link between economic instability and the number of partners one had.

However, controlling for economic factors in the study somehow discredited this theory. The research found that factoring out these economic constraints didn’t reduce the mother-child link in the number of romantic partners. Therefore, it was a clear indication that, although a factor, money problems can’t be taken as the main reason unto why the mother-child link on the number of partners exists.

The second theory was developed around the case of human observation. It suggested that having observed their mother go through a divorce, cohabitation break up or multiple breakups in general, children will most likely have more partners themselves. The theory gives an example of two half-siblings, one older half-sibling and another younger one. The older half-sibling is likely to have more partners if he or she saw their mother have multiple partners compared to their younger half-sibling who obviously wasn’t exposed to as many partners.

However, Kamp Dush claims that this wasn’t the case. She adds that according to their research, just because a child experienced their mother move from one relationship to the other, they didn’t have a larger number of partners compared to their sibling who didn’t see these breakups.

The third theory, according to Dush, made the most sense in trying to explain why children had their mother’s partnering trends. ‘What our results show is that mothers may pass on their relationship skills and marriage characteristics to their children, irrespective of the breakups, economic factors, among other factors,’ Kamp Dush claims. She adds that the reason why these mothers get into many breakups might be as a result of poor relationship skills, having mental health problems, and therefore not dealing with relationship conflicts well. All these are known to cause relationship instability and if the mother passes on such characteristics to their children, their relationships are likely to be less stable too.



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