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Is Divorce Contagious?

Have you ever noticed that if someone standing next to you yawns, you’re more likely to yawn too? It seems that yawns are contagious and apparently, so too is divorce!

Is Divorce Contagious?

A new research project headed by Rose McDermott and a team at Brown University took a look at three decades of marriage, divorce and remarriage statistics of people in Framingham, Massachusetts. And what they found was truly surprising!

“Study participants were 75% more likely to become divorced if a friend is divorced and 33% more likely to end their marriage if a friend of a friend is divorced.”

They weren’t kidding when they said choose your friends wisely! At least if you want to stay married!

Break Out the Hand Sanitizer?

The concept behind the research is centered on what is known as a social contagion.

It’s a phenomenon whereby social behaviors, attitudes and actions are influenced by those you closely associate with in your immediate as well as secondary circles. So that means friends of friends count too!

This theory has been tested and proved out in other social phenomenon such as brothers and sisters having babies within relatively short time periods of each other as well as the spread of a mysterious fake disease throughout the workplace. Kind of like the opposite of the placebo effect.

How Do You Inoculate Yourself?

While the study focused on a relatively small, controlled group of people in Massachusetts, the question remains if this can apply to other areas of the country. So before you go crazy and think this may happen to you, perhaps it’s simply a result of Framingham being a small, relatively tight-knit community.

Then again, what was interesting about these results is that the test area was made up of mostly white, upper-middle class individuals. Typically the divorce rate among this group nationally, is lower than that of the national average.

“We suggest that attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages might serve to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship,” they conclude. “Although the evidence we present here is limited to a single networkmarriages endure within the context of communities of healthy relationships and within the context of social networks that encourage and support such unions.”

Survey Also Says

A few other interesting tidbits were gleaned from the study.

  • It seems that people in the group who were divorced and got remarried, were four times more likely to marry someone who too had also been divorced.
  • Participants in the study who were divorced apparently became less popular as they lost members of the now ex-spouses social network. It makes sense, right? Like answering the question of “who gets the house” you also have to answer the question of “who gets the friends!”
  • On the positive side, those with the most social connections were least likely to divorce. I guess having a strong social network to complain to when times are bad in your marriage can help you weather the storm!

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