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A look at the diagnosis of divorce as a social contagion

Research in social behaviors has long been interested in the impact divorce has on people. Recently, an interesting question has been brought up in the field: is divorce contagious? After analyzing data over the last three decades, researchers believe they may have an answer for which no hospital will have a remedy.

According to scientists, people are 75 percent more likely to become divorced if a close friend or family member does. In an article written for the journal Social Forces, scientists postulated looking at divorce as something like a contagion that spreads through social networks, affecting even friends who are outside your closest circle. Even friends two times removed were 33 percent more likely to get a divorce than friends who were not in this circle.

But how is this possible? Researchers believe they have an answer for this as well. The phenomenon is called a "social contagion" and has been noted in a plethora of scenarios such as when siblings have children shortly after one another.

It’s important for our readers to remember that even if you have not had someone close to you get a divorce or even a friend of a friend file for separation this doesn’t mean that you and your spouse are safe from marital problems. Marriages can fail because of a multitude of reasons and can sometimes happen spontaneously in families where there is no history of divorce. While the study above might predict divorce for some couples, it might not be the case for others. Just know that if you do find yourself considering separation then it’s always a good idea to talk to a lawyer who can help you through the process.

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

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