October 25th, 2013
By John Clark
A Harvard study recently discovered that having a friend who recently filed for divorce could make you more likely to seek a separation from your spouse, according to an intriguing report from The Atlantic.
According to sources, researchers at Harvard, Brown, and UC-San Diego recently released the results of a long-term study that found people with friends who obtain a divorce are 75 percent more likely to seek a divorce.
And the trend seems to extend beyond close friends, too. According to the report, having an acquaintance go through a divorce increases your risk of divorce by 33 percent.
Due to these alarming results, the head researcher, Rose McDermott, writes that the divorce may â€œspread between friends.â€ She also observed that â€œ[c]lusters of divorce extend to two degrees of separation in the network.â€
The researchers discovered what they called â€œnetwork contagion,â€ or the effect that the divorce of a close personal friend can have on oneâ€™s own relationship. Sources note that network contagion has also been found to play a role in peopleâ€™s weight and the number of children they choose to have.
In addition, past studies have discovered that children from divorced parents are more likely to call a divorce lawyerchildren with parents who stick together.
This study, however, represents the first effort to gauge how a personâ€™s social network influences his or her romantic relationships. And, remarkably, the influence not only extends to friends of a divorced couple, but also friends of those friends, with little regard for geographic distance.
The researchers hope their findings will help divorce professionals aid couples in reducing the negative effects of divorce. They also expressed hope that the findings would help strengthen the relationships of struggling couples.
According to McDermott, the researchers â€œsuggest that attending to the health of oneâ€™s friendsâ€™ marriages might serve to support and enhance the durability of oneâ€™s own relationship.â€
Of course, the study has been met with some criticism. Sources are quick to note that the researchers based their data on a survey of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts.
And despite the fact that this survey has been described by the Pew Research Center as â€œone of the countryâ€™s longest-running and most influential longitudinal surveys,â€ the surveyed group is more white, educated, and health than the median American.
As a result, the results may only apply to a certain subset of the American population. And while the social networking effects of divorce may certainly have a similar effect on other people, the data remains somewhat unclear.
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