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Researchers analyse thousands of marriages and divorces

The research team, based in the U.S. and led by Rose McDermott from Brown University in Rhode Island, didn’t base their findings on just a handful of survey respondents. Instead, they looked at data spanning three decades, from thousands of people who had married, divorced and remarried in Massachusetts. The research team focused on social networks and how they influence divorce. The study’s introduction states:

“Divorce represents the dissolution of a social tie, but it is also possible that attitudes about divorce flow across social ties.”

The findings were startling, as it emerged that the people whose data was analysed were 75% more likely to get divorced themselves if a friend was divorced. Even more surprisingly, people who had a friend of a friend was divorced were 33% more likely to get divorced themselves. But is this just a coincidence and could other unrelated factors actually be more likely to cause marital breakdown?

The phenomenon of ‘social contagion’

According to the researchers, apparently not. Findings such as this represent an example of a phenomenon known as “social contagion”. This is where behaviours, attitudes and information can spread through social networks of friends and families. Many other studies have been carried out which show how social contagion works, from the spread of obesity in schools to siblings who are more likely to have a baby soon after a brother or sister has started their own family.

The researchers of the Brown University divorce study say of their findings:

“The results suggest that divorce can spread between friends. Clusters of divorces extend to two degrees of separation in the network. Popular people are less likely to get divorced, divorcees have denser social networks, and they are much more likely to remarry other divorcees.

“Overall, the results suggest that attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages may serve to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship, and that, from a policy perspective, divorce should be understood as a collective phenomenon that extends beyond those directly affected.”

Need legal advice on divorce?

It’s important to remember that just because your friends have got divorced, it doesn’t mean your own marriage will be next.However, if you are already facing divorce, it’s important to seek the right legal advice as a matter of urgency. The right solicitor can help to protect your interests, fight your corner and make the process of divorce as quick, smooth and as stress-free as possible.

Please contact Wirral divorce lawyer Tracey Miller Family Law on 0151 515 3036 or 07795 060 211 to discuss your circumstances and for advice you can trust on what to do next.