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Rockland & Westchester County Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Divorce > Study Indicates That Divorce May Be “Contagious”

Study Indicates That Divorce May Be “Contagious”


A study published by Pew Research appears to indicate that the recent divorce of a close friend or relative dramatically increases the likelihood that you too will get a divorce. Researchers from Brown University analyzed three decades of data on marriage, divorce, and remarriage collected from thousands of residents in Framingham, Massachusetts. The researchers found that participants of the study were 75% more likely to divorce if a close friend is divorced. Further, they were 33% more likely to divorce if a friend of a friend is divorced. This is leading researchers to wonder whether or not divorce is contagious.

“Approaching the epidemiology of divorce from the perspective of an epidemic may be apt in more ways than one,” researchers wrote in an article published in the journal Social Forces. “The contagion of divorce can spread through a social network like a rumor, affecting friends up to two degrees removed.”

Sociologists refer to this concept as “social contagion” which includes the spread of information, attitudes, and behaviors through friends, families, and other social networks. Examples of social contagion in the sociological landscape include having babies. In a 2006 paper titled “Is Having Babies Contagious?” researchers found that brothers and sisters are significantly more likely to have a baby soon after the other sibling gives birth. Another study tracked how obesity appeared to spread through elementary school classrooms in Arkansas.

Researchers based their findings on data collected from the Framingham Heart Study, which is one of America’s longest-running and most influential longitudinal surveys. The Framingham Heart Study began in 1948 to study risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Every two years, subjects are re-interviewed and undergo a detailed medical history, physical examination, and lab tests. In 1971, the study added a second generation to the original group when researchers enrolled 5,124 of the original participants’ adult children and their spouses. This cohort is reexamined every four years.

Researchers specializing in social networks often use the study’s data to provide key insights because it asks participants to name their friends and family members. This has rendered it especially useful for looking at issues of social contagion. Framingham is quite small but the study is rather large. Each participant in the study named an average of 11 other study members as a friend or family member. This has made the study perfect for determining how friends and family ties impact health and behavior.

While the study is important in raising questions about social contagion, study participants are nearly all white, better educated, and more likely to be middle class. They were also less likely to divorce than the broader U.S. population. So, researchers caution that while their data is intriguing, it is not yet definitive.

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The Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine represents the interests of Rockland County residents who are seeking a divorce. Call our Westchester County family lawyers today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin discussing your future goals and interests right away.



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