Don’t just worry about catching flu, but divorce, too?

With flu season upon us, avoiding contagions is likely on the minds of many who don’t want to come down with the illness this season. People are washing their hands more than usual, getting flu shots and avoiding sick friends and family.

Those are common steps toward avoiding the flu. But did you know that there is something else that you might “catch” from your friends? According to Pew Research Center and a recent study, divorce is contagious. There is no hand sanitizer or over-the-counter medicine to combat divorce, though.

Brown University researchers followed a Massachusetts community population for decades. Every couple of years the subjects answered questions about their friends and family and relationships. The following are just a couple of the findings based on years and years of interviews:

  • Those with a direct friend or family member who divorced were about 75 percent more likely to divorce, too.
  • Those with a friend of a friend or friend of a family member who got divorced were about 33 percent more likely to divorce, too.

The above statistics are interesting on their own, but it is worthwhile to discuss the potential reasons why the likelihood of divorce increases when friends or family end their marriages. One theory is that some see the divorce process that a friend goes through and becomes less afraid of what to expect if they got divorced themselves.

Another theory is that healthy marriages encourage the health of the other marriages around them. Couples look to each other to see how they could improve their unions and avoid divorce. Do you have any insight on this matter? Do you see how divorce might be contagious in a community of friends and family? Why or why not?

Source: Pew Research Center, “Is divorce contagious?” Rich Morin, Oct. 21, 2013

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