Is Divorce Contagious?

Humans are social creatures. We are easily influenced by the behavior of those around us, and not always in a positive way. Peer-pressure, for example, is often cited as a source of many problems for teens and young adults. However, it seems that full-grown men and women may also be susceptible to the influence of others, even when it comes to something as personal as divorce.

A recent study headed by researchers at Brown University and Harvard Medical School analyzed data on divorce over the past thirty years and came to a startling conclusion. It would seem that the divorce of someone close to you, such as a member of your family or a close friend, dramatically increases the chances that you will also get divorced.

More Than the Couple

The study argues that while divorce represents the breaking of the marital bond between two people, it is also a union that spans many other social networks. The researchers find that one must approach divorce “from the perspective of an epidemic.” A divorce can spread through a social network, affecting acquaintances up to two degrees removed. The study found, for example, that participants were 75% more likely to become divorced if a friend is divorced and 33% more likely to end their marriage if a friend of a friend is divorced.

A Divorce Epidemic?

The research was conducted on data collected in the Framingham Heart Study, which was established to identify the common factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease by following its development over a long period of time in a group of participants in Framingham, Massachusetts who had not yet developed overt symptoms of the disease. But, how does research in cardiovascular disease provide information for social scientists studying divorce? The researchers were drawn to the study because it created a detailed map of friends and family members in a small community, which is a veritable treasure for researchers studying how social networks can affect health and behavior.

The study found, of course, that the inverse of their argument was also true. The more supportive members of a couple’s social network were, the greater feelings of satisfaction and commitment partners had in their marital relationships. Further, more popular individuals—those with larger social networks—were less likely to divorce than those with fewer friendships for the same reason. In other words, a strong network protects a couple’s marriage. Interestingly, the researchers also said that having children only provides a marginal improvement in the likelihood that a marriage will survive longer than it otherwise would have.

The researchers warn that their study group does not represent the country in its entirety.  The United States is too varied, with a wide breadth of cultures and social structures, to come to a conclusion that can be applied nationally. Most of the participants in the study were Caucasian, middle class, and highly educated.

Get Help With Your Divorce

Regardless of what may have led to the breakdown of your marriage, when you are facing a divorce, you need assistance. Contact an experienced Orland Park divorce lawyer for guidance throughout the process. Call 708-518-8200 for a free consultation at Kezy & Associates today.