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Research indicates divorce may spread in social circles

New York residents may be interested in the recently-released results of a Brown University study that was conducted of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts. The study was originally designed to analyze risk factors associated with heart disease, but gradually grew in scope to include other behavioral traits. Because of the small geographical area, each person participating in the study was on average friendly with or related to 11 other participants.

The study found that respondents who had a divorced close friend or relative were 75 percent more likely to divorce than those who did not. When the participant had a friend of a friend who had ended a marriage, there was still a 33 percent higher chance of divorce. No statistics were released regarding whether those involved were undergoing a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce. Respondents who had divorced were more likely to marry someone else who has been divorced, especially if the marriage took place shortly after the end of the earlier one.

The data used in the study was collected beginning in 1948 with participants being interviewed every two years as well as undergoing medical examinations and laboratory tests. Family members and friends were added to the study starting in 1971. The divorce phenomenon that the study found has been termed “social contagion” by sociologists, who define it as the spread of behavior and attitudes among family, friends and social networks. It has been found present in other studies on such topics as child obesity and birth rates among siblings.

A person going through a divorce may wish to speak with an attorney who has experience in family law matters. The attorney may be able to help negotiate and prepare agreements relating to property division and spousal support.

Source: Pew Research Center, “Is divorce contagious?“, Rich Morin, October 21, 2013

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