Study finds divorce contagious in social groups


A recent study from leading research universities found that the likelihood of a particular couple getting divorced is increased when a close friend or family member is divorced. In fact, the odds increase by 75 percent. For someone who is only an acquaintance, the impact remains but is reduced to a 33 percent increase in likelihood. The study was limited to one community so it may not be nationally representative in terms of the percentage odds, but researchers say that the general trend has significance for the population as a whole.

Previous studies on the same question of social contagion have found that friend's choices also influence if or when we have children. Researchers are now wondering if having divorced friends and family increases our risk for divorce, if having lasting relationships in our immediate social sphere could have an impact on our likelihood of a lasting relationship.

Some critics of the report have said that it frames divorce and the increased rate of divorce in the United States as a bad thing, but in truth divorce can often be beneficial to an individual and to a family particularly when the marriage was unhealthy or unsafe. In today's world where women are becoming more educated than their male counterparts and are becoming financially independent at higher rates, divorce may be available for many who would have been stuck in an unhappy situation in a previous generation.

Still, the idea that one's community impacts their life choices seems obvious, since we look to role models and to other's experience for cues about what to expect for our own futures.

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Source: Salon, " Science: Divorce could be contagious! " Katie McDonough, Oct. 21, 2013.

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