Photographs as Predictors of Divorce

With the divorce month of January ending, many are wondering if there are signs a divorce is imminent. Well, new research may show that old photographs could be predictors of divorce and even indicate that a person is five times more likely to divorce than others.

Divorce Photograph

Don’t Forget to Smile!

A 2009 study published in the Motivation and Emotion journal found that the smile intensity in old photos can provide as a predictor of one’s likelihood of divorce later in life.

For one test, the researchers recruited more than 300 psychology alumni and around 350 general alumni, rating smile intensity in the participants’ college yearbook photos from 1 to 10. Researchers found that none of the people who fell within the top 10 percent of smile strength had gotten a divorce. But in the bottom 10 percent, one in four had experienced a divorce.

“Divorce can not only be predicted by photographs taken in early adulthood, but in childhood as well,” the researchers wrote in their study.

For a second test, the researchers recruited more than 50 individuals over the age of 55 and asked them to provide up to eight photos of themselves between the ages of 5 and 22. According to the study, only 11 percent of those who were analyzed to be big smilers had been divorced, compared to 31 percent of those who frowned in their old photographs.

Florida No Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce. So, whether your husband or wife are frowning in that old photograph you have in your wallet, you don’t need to allege that as grounds for divorce.

I’ve written about divorce issues before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your spouse’s terrible smile. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or ruining a perfectly good photograph.

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

Say Cheese!

Overall, people who frown in old photos are five times more likely to get a divorce than people who smile, according to the study. Matthew Hertenstein, PhD, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at DePauw University, told LiveScience that the results of this study fit into a larger pattern of research that has found that many personality characteristics can be determined by small displays of behavior.

Smiling in photos, for example, has been correlated with a number of personality traits, including a generally happier disposition, per LiveScience.

As the study notes, people with higher levels of positive emotionality are more likely to “take advantage of opportunities, are more open to social relationships, are more capable of ‘undoing’ sporadic negative emotions, and appraise ambiguous events more positively.”

The researchers noted that their study only shows correlation not causation, so they can’t definitively say why people who frown in old photos are more likely to get divorced. But according to the study, there could be a number of reasons—all likely related to a less positive emotional disposition. “People high in positive emotionality may be more likely to seek out environments more conducive to happy marriages and may even seek out partners who are higher in positive emotionality themselves,” the researchers noted in their study.

Don’t look at your partner’s old photos and think you can decide the entire future of your marriage, however. The study researchers and other experts say smiling in childhood photographs is not always a surefire sign that a person will be a good partner.

“People who are narcissistic and a little bit hypomanic can be generally very happy. They’re life-of-the-party people. But they’re more focused on themselves and not so good at hearing others. In one-on-one relationships, they can be difficult partners. It’s all about them and their way.”

The Best Life article is here.