Stable Souls Who Marry, Wild Egotists Who Divorce

At a time when national marriage rates are astonishingly low and national divorce rates remain distressingly high, Americans might learn something from a new Finnish study about the personal characteristics of those young people most likely to make enduring marriages and about the contrasting personal characteristics of those most likely to divorce. Conducted by a large team of researchers from Finland’s premier univer-sities and public-health institutions, this study limns a clear distinction in temperaments separating those who marry and stay married and those who turn their marriage into a reason for employing a divorce lawyer. To categorize “temperament clusters” in the Finnish population, the researchers pored over data collected from 3,761 individuals included in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 and from 2,097 individu-als participating in the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns study. More particularly, the researchers examined data obtained from use of a Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), which measures “indi-vidual differences along four main temperament dimensions: novelty seeking (NS), harm avoidance (HA), reward dependence (RD) and persistence (P).” “Novelty Seeking (NS),” the Finnish scholars explain, means “a tendency to respond with intense excitement to novel stimuli.” “Harm Avoidance (HA)” translates as “a tendency to respond intensively to signals of aversive stimuli, thereby inhibiting behavior.” “Reward Dependence (RD)” manifests itself as “a tendency to respond intensely to signals of reward, especially social rewards.” And “Persistence (P)” shows up, naturally enough, as “a tendency to persevere in behaviors that have been associated with reward or relief from punishment.” Although four “temperament clusters” emerge in the researchers’ data, only two of these clusters correlate with distinctive marital patterns. The individuals that the researchers categorize as “Cluster I”
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