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Baby planning: Hormones & Marriage

Some things never change with time...

Knowing whether you have met Mr or Miss Right, they say, is a gut feeling that cannot be defined. But now scientists believe a blood test can measure whether that feeling really does exist - or whether a marriage is destined for discord and failure.

Researchers took samples from 90 newly-married couples and analysed them for levels of four hormones related to stress. They then went back to them ten years later to find out which couples were still together.The scientists discovered that those who exhibited the highest stress levels when first married were the ones who were either divorced or in an unhappy marriage.

Lead researcher, Dr Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, based at Ohio State University in the U.S. said: 'The literature on the subject suggests that behavioural matters, such as negativity or aggression, might be the best predictors of divorce.'

'But we found the best predictors of all were hormone levels. They act as an early warning system. If you have a gut feeling that things are not quite right, that may be your hormones trying to tell you something.'

To measure the hormone levels of the volunteers - who had all been married for less than a year - the researchers asked them to spend 24 hours together in a hospital. Blood samples were taken at different intervals, including periods when the couples were asked to discuss a topic on which they disagreed - such as money or their respective in-laws.

Dr Kiecolt-Glaser and her colleagues found that those who were worse at conflict resolution exhibited the highest stress-hormone levels while in each other's presence.

Even those who did not argue with each other, or were not hot-headed, sometimes had high hormone levels, which indicated future problems. And couples who later divorced thought they were as happy when they first wed as couples who stayed together.

'People can respond emotionally to each other, even when they're not conscious of doing so, ' explained Dr Kiecolt-Glaser. 'Instead of getting into a blazing row, you may react in a different way, such as trying to avoid your other half'.'

The researchers also found that the differences were more pronounced in women. Dr Kiecolt-Glaser said: 'The data shows that women in particular register much higher levels of stress hormones, like epinephrine, than men do, in times of conflict. These higher levels of stress hormones do not go away. They stay elevated during more routine interaction and are even elevated at night, when they are sleeping.'

However, Dr Tony Reynolds, consultant biochemist at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, said there were many other reasons why couples might get divorced. 'You could get two introverted characters driving each other potty because they are so bored,' he added.

Source: Daily Mail (June 1, 2001)




               

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