Did you begin thinking about filing for divorce after learning that a family member or a friend had decided to file for divorce? If so, you likely are not alone. While divorce is not contagious in the same way as a virus, a study conducted by researchers at Brown University, the University of California at San Diego, and Yale University determined that you may be more likely to file for divorce if someone with whom you are close has recently decided to end his or her marriage. The study was published in the journal Social Forces, and it suggests that social networks could be playing a significant role in the rate of divorce in Michigan and elsewhere in the country.
How Social Networks Affect Divorce Rates
Can your social networks actually impact your likelihood of filing for divorce? The answer is not quite as simple as a basic “yes” or “no,” but the study does suggest that social networks play a bigger role in getting people to consider divorce than you might think. In short, as the researchers articulate, it is possible that “divorce can spread between friends.” Ultimately, then, if you want to lower your risk of divorce, it would make sense to “attend to the health of one’s friends’ marriages” into order to “support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship.”
To reduce that information to a key takeaway, the study highlights how divorce tends to be a collective social phenomenon as opposed to a phenomenon that affects only two parties involved in a marriage.
If two people are happy in their marriage, are they more likely to get divorced if friends or family members are dissolving their marriages? Based on the conclusions of the study, probably not. Rather, when a couple is unhappy and has already considered significant problems in the marriage, one or both of those parties in the marriage may be more likely to move forward with divorce proceedings if she or he is in a social circle in which others are getting divorced.
Details of the Study on Divorce and Social Networks
How did the researchers conduct their study? They examined married couples over a period spanning more than 30 years. They carefully explored the social networks of which these couples were apart, and they detailed the rate of divorce among those social networks. Here are some of the more specific findings from the study:
- A person’s chances of divorce increase by about 75 percent if a close friend-or someone else that the person is directly connected to at just one degree of separation-gets divorced;
- A person’s chances of divorce increase by about 33 percent if a friend of a friend or family member-someone at two degrees of separation-gets divorced;
- Divorce results in new social networks developing, as people who get divorced tend to remarry or to befriend others who are also divorced; and
- Divorcees are anywhere from two times to four times more likely to remarry someone who was previously divorced.
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