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Study looks at contagion, popularity in divorce

It’s fair to say that divorce is a relatively private matter that most people want to keep in the family, but it often turns out to be more public than we thought it would be. Individuals often turn to their friends or close family members for support and encouragement through the ups and downs of their relationship. So it’s no wonder that the social aspect of divorce was examined in one of the country’s longest-running and most influential surveys.

Researchers looked at how the divorce of one individual may affect another and made some interesting conclusions after looking at 30 years of data. They found that a person is 75 percent more likely to divorce if a close friend or family member is divorced. If someone knows a friend of a friend who is divorced, they are 33 percent more likely to split.  It’s good to keep in mind that the survey concentrated on people in Framingham, Massachusetts, so it does not represent the country as a whole.

The study also led to some interesting insights about popularity as it relates to divorce. It seems that divorce can lead to a decline in popularity. Researchers believe this may be because married friends sometimes see newly single friends as a threat. This can also be the result of losing friends due to divorce who were initially your ex-spouse’s friends.

On a different note, those who were more popular – or had more friends – were less likely to divorce than people who had fewer friends. Researchers concluded that having a strong network of people may help individuals cope with the stresses of marriage.

Trends like these are often fascinating to examine, especially considering how much divorce has evolved over the last 30 years. In the end, of course, many Mississippi residents can agree that the decision to divorce is an individual one that is rarely made in haste. Popularity and contagiousness may only play the slightest of roles. 

Source: Pew Research Center, “Is divorce contagious?” Rich Morin, Oct. 21, 2013  

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