If you know someone who has been divorced, the likelihood that you too will become divorced may increase especially if that person is a close relative or friend. Data suggests that seeing other people in your life go through a divorce may influence your own relationship status.

A study done by Rose McDermott, Ph.D. from Brown University, James H. Fowler, Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego and Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. from Yale University titled “Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample” looked at the effects of divorce on others in one’s social circle and concluded that “a person’s tendency to divorce depends not just on his friends’ divorce status, but also extends to his friends’ friends.” They found that participants in the study were 75% more likely to divorce if a direct contact (i.e. a friend or relative) was divorced and were 33% more likely to divorce if a friend of a friend was divorced. It appears that divorce not unlike covid is contagious.

While the effects of divorce will certainly have an impact on family and friends, one of the most important considerations is the effect on children of the marriage, many of whom will experience feelings of anxiety, anger and loss in the weeks, months and even years following a divorce or separation. Parents need to focus on putting the best interests of their children first.

A family lawyer or mediator can often help spouses work through many of the challenging issues surrounding their separation or divorce, whether or not they have children, and can help them come up with a plan to make the divorce process more amicable.

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Deborah A. Todd