Barnholtz & Kugler Articles Social Contagion: Divorce

Social Contagion: Divorce

By Barnholtz & Kugler  Jan. 15, 2013 10:23a

How Your Divorce Can Affect The Marriages Of Your Friends And Family

If you are thinking of pursuing a separation from your spouse, you may be interested in a new study conducted by sociologists at Brown, Harvard, and UC San Diego. New research suggests that one divorce can have a ripple effect, spreading outward to "infect" other couples around it, in a manner that mirrors the spread of viruses like the flu.

According to scientists involved in the recent paper, the study took place over several decades. Looking at census data in multiple communities, sociologists were able to create a model showing the spread of behaviors such as alcoholism, obesity, and divorce over a long period of time. As detailed in the model, these learned social behaviors display a startling similarity to the proliferation of biological viruses such as the common cold. One couple becomes a carrier for the divorce, spreading it to friends and family members, who in turn spread the 'divorce plague' to others in a rapid growth.

After conducting their extensive research program, collaborators at the various universities agree that divorce, like other social contagions, seems to be communicable from couple to couple. Data indicates that close friends of a couple undergoing a separation become an astonishing 147% more likely to eventually divorce as well. Scientists in the study clarify that the effect can spread even to friends-of-friends, much like a biological disease, creating chains from couple to couple without actually getting a divorce themselves.

Several Explanations Posited By Scientists

The effect was noticeable, though less pronounced in co-workers and family members of a divorcing couple. Fellow employees of a divorcee become 55 percent more likely to pursue a divorce, while siblings showed a 22 percent uptick in likelihood. Altogether, the study concludes, the numbers suggest that your divorce might have an effect on the people around you despite your best intentions.

In order to attempt to justify the results of the study, various sociologists have tried to speculate on the cause of the effect. One possible explanation, some researchers believe, is the breaking of societal taboos. According to some sociologists, the strong unspoken pressure against divorce usually prevents couples from even considering the possibility. Once one couple chooses to separate, however, the taboo becomes weaker, and friends and family suddenly realize that divorce could happen to them, too.

Whatever the explanation, scientists stress that the paper is just one of many such studies required before the phenomenon becomes widely accepted as fact. More research will need to be conducted, they argue, in order to properly codify and explain the underlying causes of these social contagions.

A Family Lawyer Is Ready To Help

If you are considering seeking a divorce from your spouse, you need the help of an experienced divorce firm to advise you and ensure the best outcome for yourself and your family. At Barnholtz & Kugler, our team of dedicated professionals can help guide you to a brighter future! Please, contact our firm and discuss your case with our trained staff right away!

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