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    Childhood Photos Predict Happy Marriage Or A Divorce

    By Margarita Nahapetyan

    Psychologists came up with a new evidence that a successful marriage or a divorce may depend on how much people smiled in old family photographs.

    Scientists at DePauw University in Indiana, USA, say that it is quite possible to predict whose marriage will succeed or fail, based entirely on childhood photos from as young as age 5. They found that individuals who smiled a lot as children, were more likely to be happy in marriage as adults, while weak smiles resulted in a divorce.

    To come up with this conclusion, the team of experts led by Matthew Hertenstein, an associate professor of psychology in DePauw University, carried out two trials. For the first trial of yearbook pictures, the experts sent an e-mail invitation to approximately 18,000 alumni which resulted in 428 people completing an online questionnaire. Nearly 80 individuals have been removed due to no yearbook photos. The remaining 225 women and 124 men, who graduated between 1948 and 2005, were aged from 21 to 81 years. All photographs for each individual were rated using a smile intensity score from 1 to 10. Scoring was based on the stretch in two muscles: one that pulls up on the mouth, and the other one that causes wrinkles around the eyes. It was revealed that none of the people who hit the highest 10 per cent of smile strength, had divorced, while almost one out of every four smilers within the bottom 10 per cent had had a broken marriage.

    In the test number two, people over 65 years of age were asked to provide photographic images from their childhood years. The average age in the photos was 10 years. Each participant's smile has been evaluated and scored, after what the psychologists concluded that only 11 per cent of individuals with wide and frank smiles had gone through divorce, whereas those who did not smile, frowned, or kept a straight-face in the photograph, had a 31 per cent chance of experiencing a failed marriage as an adult.

    Overall, the results show that people who do not smile in childhood photos are five times more likely to go through a divorce compared to people who smile in front of the camera. While the connection is surprising, the scientists stress out that they cannot draw any conclusions concerning the cause of the correlation. Dr. Hertenstein said that it looks like the events that have happened earlier in the lives of people could be predictors of things that would occur decades later. "Showing the continuity in who we are is really important," the scientist said. In his opinion, smiling individuals may be attracting other people that also feel happy, and this combination could more likely be leading to a greater likelihood of a long-lasting marriage.

    Hertenstein said he has also considered other explanations to this phenomenon, such as the possibility that people who smile for the camera, are more likely to be very sociable and attract more friends, therefore developing a larger support network that makes it easier to keep a relationship healthy. Or, it could as well be that individuals who tend to smile when they are told so by a photographer, may have an obedient personality, which could also be a good factor for a happy marriage.

    The results of the study confirm the results of previous studies that have found many personality characteristics can be determined from insignificant and minor behavioral patterns. Basically, very often people reveal a lot about themselves in the most subtle, simple ways. And smiling in photographs has been shown to be associated with a number of characteristic features, including a generally happier disposition. The findings are also important because they found a link between photos taken when people were young and marriage outcomes that sometimes occurred at a later time.

    The study is detailed in the April 5 issue of the journal Motivation and Emotion.

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