Study shows divorce may be contagious

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Everyone knows that the decision to file for a divorce is intensely personal. When most people do not realize, however, is that the behavior of their friends and acquaintances can have a big impact on people's decisions to end their relationships. Indeed, a recent study authored by researchers at Harvard, Brown and the University of California at San Diego indicates that divorce may be contagious.

The authors of the study examined data collected as part of the long running Framingham Heart Study - a decades long survey of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts. They discovered that those with friends who had been divorced were approximately 75 percent more likely to get divorced themselves. Those with acquaintances who had been divorced were about 33 percent more likely to get divorced themselves. The study proves that attitudes and decisions about divorce can be dictated by approaches in a couple's social circle.

It is important to note, however, that the findings of this particular study are somewhat limited. For example, the residents of Framingham, who have been providing information to social scientists since the 1960s, are generally wealthier and better educated than population at large. Survey participants are also overwhelmingly white and far less likely to be divorced than the national average. In addition, the information collected does not account for the affect of divorced couples who do not take part in the survey.

This study is the first to prove that "network contagion" affects couples' decisions to divorce. Other studies have found similar affects with respect to couples' decisions to have children and even individuals' weights. Interestingly, whether a couple is affected by their friends has nothing to do with geographic distance, but rather social distance. This suggests that couples should be as concerned about maintaining their own relationships as they should be attending to the needs of their friends.

Researchers hope that their study will help them to develop more effective strategies for helping individuals, including children, who are struggling to cope after divorce. In addition, they hope that they will also be able to contribute to the debate about whether rising divorce rates are a social issue or simply an individual issue.

If you are considering whether divorce may be the right thing for you, speak to an experienced divorce attorney. A divorce lawyer can provide you with information about the divorce process and can help you determine the best way to proceed.