Your mum’s dating history can impact your own love life, for better or worse

Warner Bros.New research suggests that the number of romantic relationships you have in your lifetime may closely mirror the number and types of relationships your mother had or has.
  • A new study in PLOS ONE suggests you can inherit a similar dating record to that of your mother.
  • Previous studies focused on the trend of divorce in families, but this new research suggests other dating characteristics, like how many partners you live with, can be passed from mother to child.
  • The study’s authors theorise that children learn certain behaviours from their mothers throughout life and then apply them to their own relationships.

You can inherit many traits from your mother: her looks, her hobbies, and, as a new study suggests, her dating habits. The study, published today in PLOS ONE, found that the number and types of relationships you have may mirror those of your mother.

“Our results suggest that mothers may have certain characteristics that make them more or less desirable on the marriage market and better or worse at relationships,” Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study and associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, said in a press release. Children may pick up these characteristics throughout their lives and apply them to their own romantic lives, the study concluded.


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To determine how likely you are to love like your mum, researchers followed 7,152 people (all mothers and their biological children) for at least 24 years and issued a survey about their relationships. Questions asked about marriages and divorces, as well as cohabitations and dissolutions of non-marriage relationships – two new factors that haven’t been studied much yet.

Old couple parents christmasHalfpoint/Shutterstock‘Whatever the exact mechanisms, they may pass these characteristics on to their children, making their children’s relationships less stable,’ Claire Kamp Dush, lead author of the study, said in a release.

The new data suggests a mother’s relationship skills, both in and out of marriage, can be passed down to her children and therefore play a role in the success of those children’s’ relationships.

“It could be that mothers who have more partners don’t have great relationship skills, or don’t deal with conflict well, or have mental health problems, each of which can undermine relationships and lead to instability,” Kamp Dush noted in the release. “Whatever the exact mechanisms, they may pass these characteristics on to their children, making their children’s relationships less stable.”

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