Is Divorce Contagious? Insight on "Copycat Divorce"

If you have friends or family members who are divorced, are you more likely to get divorced as well? A recent study focused on so-called "copycat divorces" in the United States and revealed some interesting information regarding this subject.

According to an April 2014 joint study from Brown University, Yale University and the University of California, San Diego (UCSB), divorce can be contagious, spreading like a disease among social networks. Among researchers' findings: one may be up to 75% more likely to get divorced if a close friend is divorced.

To conduct the study, which has garnered national attention since its release, researchers analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study. This study tracked more than 12,000 people in Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948. On analyzing longitudinal data from the Framingham study, researchers at Brown, Yale and UCSB came to the conclusion that people can be influenced when couples they know break up or get divorced.

Researchers found that emotional or psychological closeness to a divorcee can influence one's own likelihood for divorce, rather than physical closeness or geographical location. A person whose close friend was divorced was found to be up to 75% more likely to get divorced as well, a person with a divorced co-worker was 55% more likely to get a divorce and a person with a divorced sibling was 22% more likely to get a divorce, as compared to people with married friends, co-workers and siblings. Even a person who witnessed the divorce of a friend of a friend, with no direct contact, was 33% more likely to get divorced.

Comparing divorce to a contagious disease may seem a stretch, but this study's researchers, who titled their working paper Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too, seem to have found a possible link. A widespread study including more subjects over a greater geographical area would yield additional and more accurate results, but if witnessing or hearing about another's divorce can influence one's own marriage and likelihood of divorce, we should be careful to take our own opinions and feelings into account when making decisions on such important matters.

This study makes sense to a degree, when you consider what impact a close friend, family member or co-worker's experiences may have on your own decisions. If you witness a co-worker who is in an unhappy marriage and gets a divorce, you may consider what impact a divorce may have on your own life. If you are already dissatisfied, these thoughts may blossom into intentions. If your co-worker seems happier separated or divorced, you may even begin to wonder if this is the right choice for you.

Of course, every relationship is different and a solid marriage will not be easily influenced by scores of divorced friends or co-workers. Each person will respond differently to another's divorce and the impact that a friend or family member's experience may have on your own relationship cannot be accurately predicted, due to freedom of choice.

If you have questions about divorce, child custody and other related issues, you can find helpful insight from a New York divorce attorney at Eiges & Orgel, PLLC. It is important to consider the legal and financial ramifications of a divorce in addition to the emotional and psychological consequences. With our experience in these matters, we can help you make informed choices about your own divorce or other family law matter – whether or not you have divorced friends from whom you draw experience, opinions or insight.

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