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Should married couples steer clear of divorced friends?

As human beings, we're all affected and influenced by the people and events around us. For example, if a friend announces he or she is engaged; it's likely close friends may also examine their own lives and relationships and seek to become engaged. The same is often true when one couple in a group decides to start a family; soon a whole group of friends and close acquaintances may become parents.

Information from a 1948 study also indicates the same type of so-called peer pressure may hold true when it comes to divorce. In the original study, researchers examined the lives of 5,209 men and women between the ages of 30 and 62 who lived in a mid-sized American city. While the original study was conducted to research heart disease, the detailed information collected has since been used for other studies.

In 2010, University researchers aimed to use the data to study a phenomena called "divorce clustering". By examining the divorce rates amongst the subsequent generations of the original 1948 study participants, researchers assert that one couple's decision to divorce increases the likelihood that the marriages of close friends will also end in divorce.

The researchers found that a married couple was 75 percent more likely to divorce when a close friend divorces. Additionally, a couple was 33 percent more likely to divorce when a friend of a friend divorced. These results appear to add credence to the notion that divorce may in fact be contagious.

While saying divorce is contagious seems a bit crazy, it makes sense that men and women are influenced by the experiences of their peers. A wife and mother who is helping a fellow wife and mother cope with a difficult or inattentive spouse may draw parallels to her own situation and marriage. If that friend finally decides to file for divorce, it may stir up all sorts of thoughts and emotions and eventually lead that individual to also seek a divorce.

Source: Medical Daily, "Can Divorce Be Contagious? Theory Of ‘Divorce Clustering’ Says You’ll Lose Interest When Friends Do," Chris Weller, May 2, 2014

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