Study Finds That Divorce is Contagious in Social Networks

Divorce-broken%20heart.jpgUsing the childhood reason that “everyone is doing it” as a justification for mimicking that behavior seems to be true for divorce, according to a recent study by a University of California-San Diego professor using data from a portion of the Framingham Heart Study of the 1970s.

Professor James H. Fowler says his research shows that the feelings and actions of one couple’s divorce can transfer like a virus, causing others in their social network to be at a greater risk for divorce.

Fowler and fellow researchers from Harvard and Brown University analyzed the effect of divorce on siblings and found that people with a divorced sibling are 22 percent more likely to get divorced themselves.

In addition, they found that friends have an even greater influence than siblings. The new study found that people with divorced friends were 147 percent more likely to be divorced than people whose friends were still married.

Fowler said that there are several reasons divorce causes a ripple effect in social networks, but the major reason seems to be that when a sibling or friend is observed getting benefits from a divorce, those observing the benefits tend to want to emulate the behavior.

Fowler’s study analyzed data from 5,000 people, and he cautions that this is a small sample. More than one Jacksonville divorce attorney would agree that the findings make perfect sense, because we live in a culture that supports individual happiness and if someone is in an unhappy marriage, the solution is a divorce.