A recent report by Ohio State University researchers found that people who have more than two siblings are less likely you’ll get a divorce than those who come from one-sibling or no-sibling households. The report studied more than 57,000 Americans from 1972 to 2012 and found that for every brother or sister you have, your chances of divorce lowers by two percent when compared to single-child families. The percentages level off, however, in families with seven or more kids.
Researchers speculate that the reason behind these interesting statistics is that the more siblings a person has the more experience he or she gains in dealing with various personalities. When you have a have a full house of brothers and sisters, you naturally develop the art of negotiation, a skill that helps you navigate both positive and negative sibling interactions. In other words, if you come from a large family, you’re probably pretty good at communicating and mediating, two strong components for a happy marriage.
So this got me thinking about twins. Born as a pair, twins spend more one-on-one time with each another than two siblings of different ages. Since they are thrust into this shared environment from birth (some would argue that twins first learn to share in utero), they also learn to negotiate with each other from an early age just like kids from large families. So wouldn’t they naturally have a lower divorce rate, too?
Published studies on the subject of twins and marriage are few. Several years ago, however, a Danish study found that when compared to singletons, twins have significantly lower marriage rates but when they do marry, their divorce rate is lower, too. Researchers believe that twins—especially identical twins—simply don’t have the same yearning for marriage as singletons as they already have a strong relationship with their cotwins that satisfies their emotional needs. Or, perhaps some identical twins find it difficult to leave the relationship and move on to a new one. Furthermore, when they do marry for the first time, they’re older than their singleton counterparts. But there is one positive surprise: The study found that the divorce rate among fraternal female twins is significantly lower than singletons. Perhaps, researchers speculate, female twins have been better trained to bond and openly communicate with others thereby increasing their satisfaction once married.
Another study—this one from Boston University—found that there may be a genetic component to divorce in twins. Researchers found that when identical twins divorced, their cotwins’ marriages were more likely to end as well. Yet it was not the same for non-identical or fraternal twins who only share about 50 percent of their genes. This difference led researchers to believe that DNA must play a role. Critics of the study, however, point out that factors other than genetics may be at play here. Namely, problems in marriage often stem from poor communication or the inability to empathize with ones’ partner.
But maybe there’s a third perspective, one that has more to do with the strong bond that identical twins share rather than their genetics or predisposition to communication. Singletons married to identical twins often talk about a “love triangle,” the feeling that there are three people involved in their marriage, not just two. Some singletons can successfully compete with their partner’s cotwins, content to share their spouses’ attention while others feel jealously. They simply can not and choose not to compete for their spouses’ affections, and choose to end the marriage instead.