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Divorce: all down to the genes?

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Does divorce run in the family? That’s the thought-provoking question posed by a new article on the Huffington Post.

The question accompanies a gallery of celebrity siblings who have all followed each other into the divorce courts. Did you know, for example, that all three members of the Bee Gees were divorced? Elder brother Barry went first, in 1970. Maurice was married to Scottish pop singer Lulu before the pair divorced in 1973. And then there was Robin, who divorced wife Molly in 1980. The couple had survived a 1967 train crash which killed 49 people.

Singer and actress Jessica Simpson divorced fellow singer in Nick Lachey in December 2005. Her younger sister Ashlee followed suit in 2011, when she filed for divorce from musician Peter Wentz.

Three of the four Arquette siblings have been divorced or are in the process of doing so – David filed earlier this year, from former Friends star Courtney Cox. His sister Patricia has been divorced twice and Rosanna no less than three times.

Brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez have both been divorced, as have Alec Baldwin and his brother Daniel.

No less than eight of the nine Jackson siblings have also gone through the divorce couts, according to the article, including Jermaine, La Toya, and, of course, the late Michael Jackson.

And so on. It’s food for thought. The article quotes 2010 research suggesting that people with a divorced brother or sister are 22 per cent more likely to get divorced themselves. So what is going on here?

Of course there is no mysterious genetic trigger behind divorce, and I very much doubt that divorcing siblings consciously copy each other. Divorce, after all, involves no shortage of upheaval and heartache, even if it is you, rather than your partner, who initiates the break. But one thing we do share with our brothers and sisters are parents and a family history which leaves patterns and expectations that we can carry for the rest of our lives, even if we are completely unaware of them.

A person’s marriage so often becomes a model for their own. If your Mum and Dad’s marriage was turbulent and terminated, then you may well go into your own union subconsciously expecting the same outcome and perhaps creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Equally, some people find that their own marriages never quite live up to the expectation set by their parents’ union and are left feeling restless and dissatisfied as a result. And when that happens a decree nisi is rarely far away.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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