Divorce Contagion

“Is Divorce Contagious” by Rich Morin highlights the triadic closure property, contagion within a network, selection, and socialization in divorce. The article cites a study which focuses on data gathered over 30 years from couples who married, divorced, and then remarried in Framingham, Massachusetts. The study concluded that when one couple gets divorced, there is a 75 percent chance that one of their close married friends will  divorce.  The study also found that friends of friends of the divorced couple had a 33 percent more chance of  divorcing.  This statistic  can be expressed using the triadic closure property in a network.   The couples with strong ties to the divorced couple had a 75 percent chance of divorcing while those with weak connections to the divorced couple had a 33 percent chance of divorcing.

The study is also  applicable to the economics term, contagion within a network.  Divorce, a contagion within the network, was evident when 75 percent of couples with strong ties to the original couple divorced.  Divorce is a contagion because when one couple  divorced, their close friend had a higher chance of divorce.  If that close friend got a divorce, then  that couple’s friends had a 75 percent chance of  divorcing and the trend continues.

I believe the chance of divorce increased as a couple’s friends got divorced because of selection.  After the study’s participants saw their friends  divorce, they more clearly realized their own marital problems. This realization could have possibly led to their divorce.

Socialization could have also been the cause of the friend’s divorce because people try to become more like  their friends.  If a friend divorces, it may lead all the other friends to divorce because they want to be like their divorced friend. Overall, this is a compelling article about how networks operate all around us without us even noticing.

3 thoughts on “Divorce Contagion”

  1. I find the study cited to be very interesting. When we look at the divorce rates in Hollywood, we can see that divorce/divorces are so common. It is like a trend or the Hollywood norm, and it makes me wonder whether strong or weak ties to the divorcees really have anything to do with divorces amongst celebrities. This also had me thinking about, for example, divorce rates amongst doctors who in my opinion, strive to maintain a perfect, nuclear family and may probably have a lower divorce rate. I believe that a person’s occupation is one of the factors that affect marriage, and maybe the tie to a divorced friend has little to do with one’s chance of getting divorced. If the friends shared similar professions in this study, one can argue that it’s this specific connection that determines your chance of divorce.

  2. It seems like the divorce contagion is more likely to be an active choice of who we choose to be friends with rather than some kind of socialization of divorce. It seems more likely that people who have qualities such as loyalty, openness and honesty are more likely to become friends with one another as well as likely to become divorced. Those who are in unhappy marriages or who have traits that keep them from staying in long term relationships probably seek each other out because of their similar personalities or outlooks. It seems like the cause and effect would be hard to separate out here, but it seems more likely that similar people would bond to one another rather than people getting divorces because their friends are.

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