Is divorce contagious?

[deleted account] ( 13 moms have responded )

Is divorce contagious?
by Mira Jacob, Shine staff, on Tue Jul 6, 2010 12:29pm PDT

You know those moments when science confirms something that you just knew in your gut? Well, add this one to the list than includes “cheeseburgers hurt your heart” and “people who drink too much get sad”: Apparently, divorce is contagious.

A new study done by scientists at Harvard University, Brown University and UC San Diego finds that divorce is a contagion that can spread though social groups like a virus, weakening the marriages closest to it. In fact, the breakup of a close friend’s marriage can increase the likelihood of your own marriage ending by a whopping 75 percent.

"We think of a regular contagion like the flu," professor James H. Fowler of UCSD said. "You get a virus and you're more likely to spread the symptoms to someone else. This is not just true for a virus. This is true for a lot of social behaviors."

The study, called "Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample Followed for 32 Years” looked at the data of several generations of people in Framingham, Massachusetts, starting in the 1970s. While Fowler cautioned against extrapolating too much from the 5,000 participants in the study, some of its findings seem less shocking than intuitive, including:

A person with a divorced sibling was 22 per cent more likely to get a divorce
A person with a divorced coworker was 55 per cent more likely to get a divorce than someone who works with all married coworkers
Even witnessing a friend of a friend’s divorce increased the likelihood of a marriage breaking up by 33 percent.
Couples with children were less susceptible to being influenced by other couples divorces

While I can hardly pretend that my own experience is anything close to scientific, I have noticed that after a weekend of visiting friends going through divorces, I've found myself hugging my husband a little too long, and saying ridiculously obvious things like, "Let's never split up, okay?" I've also lain in bed awake at night, counting up all the things that work between us, as if affirmation were a form of inoculation. To be clear: I’m not judging my friends for splitting up, I’m just saying that I have absolutely noticed their divorces have caused ripples throughout the marriages of the friends and family that surround them, mine included.

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What do you guys think? Do you agree with the study? Disagree? Do you think it's an acurate study? Have at it ladies! I saw this article and just had to see what you all thought! :)


Rosie - posted on 07/11/2010




i can kindof see it. if you are unhappy and you see one of your friends going through it, and actually get the balls to go through with it yourself. kindof like, i'll bungee jump but you got to do it as well!

Meghan - posted on 07/11/2010




In my case, I think that going through my divorce made my g/f's work harder on THEIR relationships. I think the huge difference would be if there are kids involved or not.

[deleted account]

Well I have never witnessed anything like the above example of 2 couples divorced. I have witnessed a close friend of mine overcome infidelity in her marriage and through a long process, it strengthed the marriage. I have a friend going through a nasty divorce right now-infidelity on the jackass husband's part-but she's not going out on the town and partying it up. I have witnessed a couple mutually agree that marriage wasn't for them, but they gave it a shot, did the counseling thing, went their separate ways. I think it's a bullshit kind of study and doesn't accurately describe divorce.

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Riana - posted on 07/24/2010




Definately agree - divorce is contagious, luckily the same is true for happy mariges :-)

[deleted account]

Be an adult if your marriage isn't working get out (after trying your hardest to save the relationship) but DON'T get divorced because your mate has that is pathetic! I would NEVER divorce my hubby because my mate got divorced I married him because I love him and I intend on being with him until we die.

[deleted account]

Everyone I hang out w/ is married... except the guy I'm starting to date... that would be wrong. ;)

I only know of one other couple going through a divorce and their's was from something that happened probably 6 years ago that they just couldn't get past.

Don't know if it's 'contagious' or not for some, but doesn't seem to be in my circle.....

Isobel - posted on 07/23/2010




I think if you have a group of people who are unhappy, it is natural that once one woman takes the plunge and gets a divorce, then the process seems a little less scary to the I can see it.

I don't know anybody who took their divorce lightly. To be honest with you,I think it's good that people are not living with abuse and heartache for 50 years the way they used to.

Danielle - posted on 07/23/2010




I just feel like people are taking marriage less and less seriously nowadays. People are getting married too soon and people are getting married with the mindset of "if it doesn't work out we'll just get a divorce." So I'm not sure I feel divorce is contagious but I certainly think that many modern couples are getting divorced with a lot less of an attempt to make the marriage work.

Meghan - posted on 07/11/2010




It's different because my ex was an ASS (don't get me wrong I am not perfect, but my friend's husbands are NOTHING like my ex. My ex liked to party and do drugs, which was a huge issue-) so some things may not be as relivant. But I think it makes little issues look a little easier to troop through...and they see the way I feel and the things my son gets put through and maybe it makes them feel better about their situation?
I NEVER wanted to get divorced. In my heart I guess I knew things weren't going to work out, but I fully thought they would change (nieve I know). People ARE too quick to give up imo and they don't really realize how how a divorce is on the kids-regardless of the age or how involved (in my case) daddy was/wasn't. BUT there are some things that just aren't healthy for a family! Plus it costs so much :s

[deleted account]

I agree with you Meghan. If one of my friends were to get divorced, I would really be working harder to make sure that whatever happened in their relationship doesn't happen in mine (even though I can think of 2 of my friends who will probably get divorced and that's just because they married a**holes... but that's another story).

[deleted account]

IDK? Nobody else got divorced when my parents split up? My Aunt & Uncle are going through a divorce, I haven't talked to her in a while, but we'll see if anyone in their circle of friends or family fall by the wayside... When my BFF was getting divorced I did not have any desires to leave my husband...although at times the thought has occurred to me. I think on some level it can encourage others to put their foot down when they wouldn't have normally, but no so much in the sense the first poster referred to. More so in the relationship was already kinda doomed and after Woman A sees woman B make it on her own she gets more motivated in her own situation.

C. - posted on 07/10/2010




No. I don't think it's 'contagious'. Do I think it gets thrown around too much? Yeah, I do. Do people USUALLY take the time to talk things out and COMPROMISE? Not as much as they should, IMO. But contagious? No.

Gertie - posted on 07/10/2010




I don't know how scientifically representative of the population it is...but I've seen it happen more than once.

What usually happens is the hubby cheats, so they divorce. The newly single woman goes out and does some partying. So she brings her bff along who happens to be married, did so at a young age, and has kids. The wife starts going out more and more...her hubby doesn't like it. She decides she has "changed" and wants to get back those young years she has lost, marriage and children be damned. She needs to "find herself." So now the second couple gets divorced.

Hubby B and children lose.

You hate to say it..but you can't help but hope she finds out how wrong she was to give up her family for such selfish reasons. The kids suffer immensely. :( Boo.

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