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Does your friend's divorce impact you?

Typically when we think about how our friend's divorce could impact us, we think about logistical things like whether they will move to a different city, leave their job, or whether they will choose different friends when their marriage ends. While these types of collateral impacts might be the most obvious, those are the types of effects that researchers at several major universities have been looking into.

A new study found one major way that a friend's divorce can impact you: by increasing your own odds for divorce. Looking at a large data set, researchers found that having a close friend who gets a divorce can increase a person's own likelihood of divorce by 75 percent. Having a close acquaintance get a divorce can increase the odds by as much as 33 percent. The shorthand way of explaining this is to say that divorce is contagious.

This follows up other research that found that a person’s weight can be affected by their friends, suggesting that divorce or the factors that cause divorce may be linked to other lifestyle and social factors. So-called “network contagion” has been found in other studies on other topics as well.

Researchers are often interested in getting to the bottom of why divorces happen as a way to look at reducing America’s high divorce rate if it is in fact a social phenomenon. However, for people who are in unhappy or unhealthy relationships, the root causes of divorce in general may be comforting but do not help solve the problems at hand. An experienced family law professional can help sort through the immediate issues for individuals considering a divorce and can offer thoughtful advice on how to proceed.

Source: Atlantic Wire, “Divorce Can Be Contagious,” Alexander Abad-Santos, Oct. 21, 2013. 

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