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Is divorce contagious among friends?

Has something a friend done ever influenced a choice you made? A little reflection will reveal that it has probably happened multiple times. Perhaps you wanted to try a restaurant a coworker raved about or follow a friend's taste in fashion. It may have been something more important, such as deciding to put off motherhood in favor of your career or vice versa. It is common for milestones in people's lives to affect their friends' choices, especially when it comes to lifetime decisions such as marriage and parenthood. It will come as no surprise, then, that the same is true for divorce.

The statistics

A 2013 joint university study examined the effect of divorce within social networks and other factors that might play a role in the decision. The results showed that those with friends who are divorced are 75 percent more likely to get divorced as well. The percentage increased with a second degree of separation (divorced friends having divorced friends). However, there were several other nuances that raised or lowered the chances of a couple divorcing after their friends do.

The reasons

There are many explanations for why divorce may be contagious among friends. Some of these include the following:

· Positive post-divorce life. When you see your friends survive a divorce and live happily, it may encourage the idea that you can have the same experience, too.

· Attitudes about divorce. If your social circle is accepting of divorce, you may feel more comfortable going through with it knowing you will receive less judgment or shunning.

· Support network. Your divorced friends may provide a support group for you to rely on during the process. They may also give you resources and advice.

It is important to note, however, that those with several strong friendships were less likely to divorce. This may be due to their friends helping them get through difficult marital times or to popular people having better social and relational skills that helped them choose a spouse and friends with similar strengths.

The bottom line

The people with whom you associate affect your own behaviors and decisions, including that of divorce. Therefore, it is vital that you examine your motivations before filing for divorce. You need to make sure you are doing this for the right reasons. You also need to understand that your experience may be different, in a good way or bad, than those of your friends. It is best to consult a family law attorney first to learn how a divorce may affect your life.

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Salem, MA 01970

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