According to James H. Fowler , a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, this risk of divorce not only can spread to friends and family but it can also affect relationships at least two degrees away from the original couple splitting up.
This means that your decision to divorce your spouse can influence whether your friend gets divorced and also your friend’s friend, according to findings by Fowler and fellow researchers from Harvard and Brown Universities.
This can be seen in the Gore family who has already announced two marital separations this month: Former Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper and the couple’s eldest daughter Karenna Gore Schiff and her husband.
Fowler’s research on divorce contagion doesn’t analyze whether the divorce of parents affects children but it does examine the effect on siblings. However, Fowler warns that children should watch out because when siblings divorce, it tends to spread. Fowler’s research is pending publication.
And according to Fowler’s study, friends have even more influence than siblings when it comes to divorce. People who had a divorce friend were 147 percent more likely to be divorced than people whose friends’ marriages were intact.
The study also looked at the effect on co-workers. A divorced co-worker can increase the likelihood of another employee divorcing by 55 percent compared to an employee who works with co-workers who are not divorced.
People with children, however, were less susceptible by other couples to get a divorce.
Chains of friends are also affected, the study concluded. For example, a divorcing person confides in a married friend who doesn’t opt for divorce but relays the details to a third person, influencing that person to divorce.
The reasons behind why divorces create ripple effects in a social network are that people warm up to the idea of divorce when they see their friends, family or co-workers going through it. When a divorced person confides in a married friend, the married person can see the pros and cons of divorce. Apparently in Fowler’s study, most people saw the benefits of divorce.
It should be noted, however, that the study only analyzed data from 5,000 people which is a small sample of the population.
Fowler’s study also looks at longitudinal data from part of the Framingham Heart Study of several generations of people in a Massachusetts town over more than 30 years beginning in the 1970s. Divorce went from being nearly taboo in the 1970s to being socially acceptable in the 1990s. This just shows how the perception of divorce has radically changed throughout the years.
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Source: Could you be ‘infected’ by friend’s divorce? By Stephanie Chen, CNN