Is divorce contagious?
A lot of us have experienced it or at least witnessed it in some way. One neighbor or co-worker decides to get divorced and the next thing you know you’re the last married couple on the block.
Or maybe you’re not.
The point is, one month you might think that everyone is happily married and the next, divorce is spreading around you like a virus.
This actually makes sense. Groups of couples often meet and become friends because the kids go to the same schools or have other things in common. Similar income and wealth levels are also a factor in most friendships. As children grow and begin leaving the nest, the urge to “stay together for the kids” gives way to “I must take care of my own happiness.”
A group of families can very easily find themselves in this position all at the same time. Once the first couple calls it quits the remaining members of the group get a glimpse into just how divorces happen and what life looks like on the other side.
Is the grass really greener?
Fear of the unknown is a big reason why some people hesitate to get divorced. Will I be able to maintain my lifestyle? Will I have to go back to work even though I’ve stayed home with the kids for years? How will this affect my retirement? What about the house? The kids? What will my family think?
However, as friends or family navigate the divorce process and transition to life after, the process might seem less daunting. The shared experience serves to remove ambiguity. Suddenly the divorce process itself and life as a single person seem less frightening and a Divorce Bubble pops.
Come on! Answer the question.
Because there is a study about everything for everything you might be interested in an academic paper titled Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample.
The title of the paper may lead you to assume findings are supportive of divorce contagion but we find other interesting data from the study including a possible suggestion on how to better a marriage. The abstract states the goal “to explore how social networks influence divorce and vice versa.”
“Divorce is a collective phenomenon that extends beyond those directly affected.” Friends and family may be called upon for emotional support during the process. In some cases, the still married couples are placed in the middle and asked to choose sides. Surprisingly the paper finds “attending to the health of friends’ marriages may serve to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship.”
Data show clusters of divorce extending to two degrees of separation in a social network. In other words, a person’s tendency to divorce depends not just on a friend’s divorce status, but also extends to friends’ friends. A divorced friend or family member who lives hundreds of miles away may have as much influence on risk of divorce as one who lives next door.
According to the study “People who have a divorced friend are 270% more likely to divorce themselves.” Coupled with previous research concluding daughters of divorced parents are 70% more likely to divorce themselves I think we have our answer.
DIVORCE IS CONTAGIOUS!
Wellspring Divorce Advisors helps individuals and couples address the financial aspects of divorce in a civilized, equitable, and efficient manner by providing expert divorce financial planning and advice. Contact us to find out how we can help you through this process.