A new book entitled Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by Professor John T. Cacioppo of the University of Chicago explains that a subjective sense of being socially disconnected can significantly increase health problems.  Loneliness causes harm to species development and within our own bodies. Problems can include cardiovascular tension, decreased immune functioning and ability to sleep; and higher blood pressure, depression and stress hormone levels. Alzheimer’s advances faster, too. This area of study is called Social Neuroscience.

             Elsewhere, Scientists studying Swedish twins and voles discovered a genetic variation produces a hormone that disrupts social relations. Men with a single variation of the gene (called AVPR1A) were twice as likely to have experienced a “relationship crisis” in the previous twelve months, and those with a double variation were more likely to be unmarried. The study appeared September 2, 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

             The book and the scientific discovery have something important in common: Increasingly, we learn that human social  behavior has a genetic basis behind its evolutionary advantage.        

             As a matrimonial lawyer with an academic background in Human Development, I have long held the view that marriage (and living together) is primarily a process of serial monogamy, which is loyalty for a limited time. Probing in a courtroom or therapist’s office for the fault that caused a marital dissolution is misguided. Current research suggests much of our interpersonal conduct is nature, not nurture; it may be programmed in our genes. But whatever the cause of our high rate of marital dissolution, states are increasingly recognizing no-fault divorce.

             Evolution clearly favors social relations and disfavors loneliness and monogamy.  Humans are highly social. In the child-rearing context, it makes intuitive sense that parents would join together in assuring food and shelter; and that after a time, one or the other or both would promote diversity elsewhere. It is what many people do and what many other animal species practice; so it is reassuring that there are not only evolutionary and health advantages but also genetic underpinnings for our conduct.