Is divorce contagious?

A recent study suggests that the health of your friends' relationships may prove to be a factor in couples' decisions to seek divorce.

When asked to identify the factors that commonly cause couples to file for divorce, most people might cite job stress, financial bickering or even changes in long-term life goals. Surprisingly, one recent study shows that couples' decisions to split may be influenced by another factor: the health of their friends' relationships.

Researchers from Brown University, Harvard University and the University of California at San Diego worked together to examine data collected from the residents of Framingham, Massachusetts. Since 1948 and in years since, many residents of Framingham have participated in the Framingham Heart Study. This long-term study collects a great deal of information about individuals, their families and their friends in an effort to learn more about heart health. It does, however, also provide invaluable data to researchers studying social issues, such as rates of marriage and divorce.

Overall, the authors of the recent study found that divorce can travel through a group of friends much in the same way that a rumor does. In fact, they discovered that individuals who had an immediate friend who got divorced were about 75 percent more likely to file for divorce themselves. If the relationship was secondary - that is, if a friend of a friend had gotten divorced - then an individual was about 33 percent more likely to divorce himself. Marital status of relationships at a third degree of separation had little effect on likelihood of divorce, however.

The authors of the study are unsure why a friend's choice to end her relationship might affect someone's decision to divorce. The answer, however, may be quite simple: the more an individual is around people who are having difficulty in their own relationships, the more they are likely to feel the same way. Divorce itself is not contagious, but the emotions associated with it - and, indeed, the strategies that individuals employ to deal with them - may be. Others have suggested that similarities in age and maturity levels among friends may also play a role.

Interestingly, this research may mean that helping someone else through a rough patch in their marriage may not simply be a matter of being friendly, it could play a role in preserving your own relationship.

Seeking advice from an experienced divorce attorney is an essential first step for those who are currently considering whether to end their marriage. To learn more about what to expect, schedule a consultation with a divorce attorney today.

Keywords: Divorce