Review Paper 1
Running Head: REVIEW PAPER
Psy 492 Advanced General Psychology
Spring II 2010
This paper questions if women pick their partners based on genetic or environmental traits. Overall the
results find that both genetic and environmental influence help women choose their partners. Both of
them impact one another, but environmental influences usually over come the genetic influences. This
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paper also discusses various things that impact the relationship of married couples and their downfalls. It
concludes with the justification of why this topic is important to our society.
The topic of interest asked, do women pick their partners based on observation, or is it
inevitable they pick them because of their inherited genes? It is said that the mate a woman
chooses has the same characteristics as her father because of their observation of them when
growing up. Their father is a part of their environment that they learned from and they mentally
imprint on their father’s characteristics; they end up thinking that is how their partner is supposed
to be like and it becomes the norm for them.
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This topic is important because if we figure out why and how we pick our partners, we can do so
successfully. The divorce rate would more than likely decrease dramatically. As of 2001, “fifty percent of
first marriages end in separation and divorce within the first twenty years” (Ortega & Cordova, 2001).
Therefore, when we figure out what affects us to choose the partners we do, we can control them through
therapy that is based on that and our families won’t have to be affected by it: especially our children.
Children get hit the worst by divorce. It can lead to social problems that will follow them for the rest of
When I thought about that study, I thought that maybe genetics could play a significant role in it
as well as environmental observation. For example, a mother has the genes of an extraverted personality
and she was attracted to the father, who was an introvert, because he brought out her personality more
than an extraverted person would. Their daughter would more than likely inherit the mother’s extravert
personality genes; therefore, she would find a spouse like her father who is an introvert. Environmental
factors could influence the behaviors of the daughter; the behaviors could increase due to the observation
of the mother’s behaviors. There are different types of environmental influences that affect behaviors.
First, of all our environment is our physical and psychological surroundings. It is what we do,
what we interact with, and the social and emotional climate of it. One of the types of environmental
influences is shared environmental influences. These are “nongenetic influences that make family
members similar…” (Spotts et al., 2005). An example of this would be the origination of a family, culture,
and the relationship of the family members. The other type of environmental influence is nonshared
environmental influences, which are influences that “make family members different from each other…”
(Spotts et al., 2005). According to Johnson, “any given environment may have different effects on
individuals who differ genetically, and genetic differences among individuals may create differences in
the environment to which individuals are exposed” (Johnson, 2007). That is, since everyone is
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genetically different, everyone is going to interpret their environment differently. This could be why
women choose different spouses than one another. Also, since everyone is different they also have
different nonshared environmental influences. Everyone has different types of friends, jobs, and
experiences; this is another reason why every woman’s spouse differs from one another.
Jacobson and Rowe (1999) found that “genetic influences were stronger for female adolescents
than for male adolescents”. They may be stronger for females because of biological differences such as
hormones. All of the research found that the genetic factors were the factors that could “be altered by
environmental interventions” (Anastasi, 1973), such as therapy, counseling, medical treatment, and so on.
Environment formed characteristics are the ones that are harder to change. A good example of this is the
saying, “you can take a country girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl”. It is
hard to change the environment from which you cam from. It can change little by little, but it is still hard
to change, even with therapy. This is why research finds that environmental factors influence how a
woman chooses her spouse; a woman chooses her spouse based on the norm of her environment.
Research also tells us that genes initially influence a woman’s decision on choosing a spouse, and
then their environmental influences enhance the decision making by bringing out the genetic
characteristics. According to Spotts et al. (2005) “genetically influenced characteristics
influence…“children “to seek out a compatible environment, perhaps by seeking out the parent who is
more compatible with his or her positive behavior”. Therefore, women look for characteristics in their
spouses that bring out their desired behaviors such as in the example given; the daughter will more than
likely chose an introvert just like her mother did not only because of the genetic characteristics her
mothers passed to her, but because introvert personalities are more compatible with her behavior.
Women‘s behaviors provoke a certain reaction from her partner: if the reaction is a desired
reaction the woman will be more satisfied. According to Spotts et al. (2004) “either the wife sought out a
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husband with particular characteristics based on her genetically influenced characteristics, or her
genetically influenced characteristics influence the tone of the marriage in such a way to color the
husband‘s perceptions“. Therefore, the woman may seek out a spouse that shares “similar views, or she
could also be evoking responses in her husband that are similar to her own” (Spotts et al., 2004). So, the
woman’s perception of their marriage is influenced by genetic factors and she finds the spouse based on if
they relate with her genetically influenced characteristics; the woman’s genes are trying to bring out a
certain response from her partner.
“Marital quality has been shown to be modestly heritable” (Spotts et al., 2005). The woman’s
genetic influences are known to influence the husband’s marital quality. They are “an important source of
nonshared environmental influences” (Spotts et al., 2005) because they are usually the main source of the
wife’s social support. The wife’s tend of social support is more than likely to be inherited rather than
learned through her environment. On the other hand, her marital quality is likely to be learned through her
environment. It is known that genes contribute to mental illnesses, which can affect the quality of
relationships. Genetic influences affect behavioral problems and temperament more than environmental
influences do. Since we have learned that we can control our genetic influences by various types of
therapy, we can change our relationships to more positive ones.
The prevailing arguments in each of the literatures are that both environmental and genetic factors
influence how women choose their spouses. According to Spotts et al. (2006) “genetic factors influence
the choice of a mate, but in the long term, nonshared environmental factors may play a larger role in
overall marital quality”. Different environmental influences make the genetic behaviors, such as inherited
behaviors, come out either more or less. The influence of both depends upon the ration of the two. For
instance, if there is a steady level of environmental influences, then the genetic influences will be greater.
Most of the time, environmental influences contribute to decision making more than genetic factors.
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Divorce is influenced by genetic as well as nonshared environmental factors. Genetic
factors are more likely to increase the risk of divorce. Personality genetic traits are included in
this: the characteristics of these can be “criticism, contempt, and defensiveness” (South &
Krueger, 2008) nonconformity, high positive emotionality, low impulse control and endorsement
of traditional values, and extraversion; these characteristics increase the risk of divorce.
“Personality characteristics measured at the beginning of a marriage have been found to be
predictive of later marital satisfaction and divorce” (Spotts et al., 2004). This means that our
individual characteristics stay the same throughout our life span. Those whose characteristics are
persistent of this are the ones who are at risk for divorce because of the unwillingness to change
It is also revealed that, in women, environmental factors influence their decisions in
choosing their partners. When they do have a husband they are less likely to be satisfied with the
quality of their relationship with their spouse than men are. This is mainly because their genetic
characteristics influence their perception of the marriage. Women’s genotypic-environments
make them find a spouse who has about the same genetic influences as she does; this makes a
particular response come of the spouse that is wanted from the woman. Therefore, genetic factors
is what makes the couples agree more on things and the environmental influences is what makes
them see things differently from one another.
Genetic influences are more likely to be stronger in females than in males, this could be
because of hormonal and endocrine differences. For males, their influences are mainly through
their environment. Although environmental influences influence men the most, they can
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influence women by their environment perceiving them to be something, so they are more than
likely to be what their environment sees them to be as. Women are perceived to be warm and
relationship-oriented so they are. Men are perceived to be more prone to conflict and studies
show that they are.
It was found that both men and women both had genetic influences when it came to
warmth and conflict in their relationships. All research believes that it is possible to adjust
genetic traits to reach better outcomes. Overall, all the literatures found that “genetic factors
influence the choice of a mate, but in the long term, nonshared environmental factors may play a
larger role in over marital quality” (Spotts et al., 2006). They are what cause the major difference
between couples because they are harder to control. Couples who stay together do not have
characteristics that are persistent, and “are more flexible and able to go with the environmental
flow” (Spotts et al., 2004).
One question that was developed was, are we able to control our thoughts, feelings, and
emotions? And if so, to what extent? What are ways we can manipulate our environment so that
we can have the behaviors we want and become the person each of us wants to be? What kinds
of behaviors are more likely to be genetically inherited? I believe that this topic of interest is
important because it can “improve treatments of distressed marriages” (Spotts et al., 2006). This
can go deeper in making marriages better by identifying the genes that interact with specific
environmental situations. When this is identified we can know what genes we can change to get
into the kinds of relationships we desire, or if a person is already in a relationship they will know
how to change their environment of their genetically inherited behaviors to make their
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relationship the best it can be. We will also know how to refine treatments and interventions so
that we can better help troubled couples.
When the research is successful couples will be able to have marriages that will not end
up in divorce, which in the end will affect their whole family. Jockin (1996) stated that “children
in divorce, particularly boys, are at risk of undercontrolled behavior, a relationship that appears
to be mediated by marital conflict”. In the end these children will grow up to have significant
problems of their own. Their social lives could end up being disastrous, and they may even end
up being divorced themselves. If we find the answers we need, we will be able to change the
genetic and/or environmental factors to prevent unsatisfactory relationships and have satisfactory
relationships with our spouses for the sake of us and our family’s well being.
Anastasi, A. (1973). ACT research report: Common fallacies about heredity, environment and human
behavior. 14. Retrieved from PsycEXTRA database.
Harlaar, N., Santtila, P., Björklund, J., Alanko, K., Jern, P., Varjonen, M., et al. (2008). Retrospective
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reports of parental physical affection and parenting style: A study of Finnish twins. Journal of
Family Psychology, 22(4), 605-613. doi:10.1037/0893- 3184.108.40.2065.
Jacobson, K., & Rowe, D. (1999). Genetic and environmental influences on the relationships
between family connectedness, school connectedness, and adolescent depressed mood: Sex
differences. Developmental Psychology, 35(4), 926-939. doi:10.1037/0012- 16220.127.116.116.
Jocklin, V., McGue, M., & Lykken, D. (1996). Personality and divorce: A genetic analysis. Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(2), 288-299. doi:10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1688.
Johnson, W. (2007). Genetic and environmental influences on behavior: Capturing all the interplay.
Psychological Review, 114(2), 423-440. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.114.2.423.
Ortega, S., & Cordova, J. (2009). Measuring adult attachment: An exploratory study investigating
the relationships among marital satisfaction, emotion skills, and self- report and observational
measures of attachment. 3. Retrieved from PsycEXTRA database.
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"environmental" influences. Developmental Psychology, 21(3), 391-402.
South, S., & Krueger, R. (2008). Marital quality moderates genetic and environmental influences on the
internalizing spectrum. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117(4), 826-837. doi:10.1037/a0013499.
Spotts, E., Neiderhiser, J., Towers, H., Hansson, K., Lichtenstein, P., Cederblad, M., et al. (2004). Genetic
and environmental influences on marital relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 18(1),
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Spotts, E., Pederson, N., Neiderhiser, J., Reiss, D., Lichtenstein, P., Hansson, K., et al. (2005). Genetic
effects on women's positive mental health: Do marital relationships and social support matter?.
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Spotts, E., Prescott, C., & Kendler, K. (2006). Examining the origins of gender differences in marital
quality: A behavior genetic analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(4), 605- 613.