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How contagious is divorce?

How many couples do you know have divorced recently? According to a recent study by Brown University, you may have a higher risk of divorce if one of your close relatives or a friend divorces. The study is the accumulation of data over 30 years from residents in Framingham, Massachusetts; however, couples in Colorado and around the country will find the following interesting.

According to the study, there was a 75 percent chance of a couple divorcing if they had a close friend or relative who was divorced. That percentage dropped to 33 percent if the divorced party is a "friend of a friend."

The project that the research team used in the study is known as the Framingham Heart Study. In 1948, the study was started as a means of learning more about cardiovascular disease risk factors. Just over 5,200 women and men were interviewed. Every two years or so, those people were re-interviewed. There were laboratory tests and physicals completed, as well as medical histories. Another group of people were added in 1971. These individuals were the children of the original participants, as well as the spouses. This study is different from many others because the study pool is full of people who are related or are friends with another study member. This allows researchers to look at how familial ties and friendships affect behavior and health.

The researchers found that the "contagiousness" of divorce is not something new. "Social contagions" exist for a number of other behaviors and health issues. For example, previous studies have found that if one sibling were to have a baby, then that person's brothers and sisters were likely to have one soon after.

Researchers are quick to advise that this study does not represent the U.S. as a whole. There would need to be studies completed that included a sample from around the country to see if they got the same results. Demographic characteristics would be different in a national sample, too, as this study mostly included all whites.

However, it does bring to mind questions of whether a friend's or family member's divorce would affect one's decision to divorce. It's important to remember that divorce is a major decision in one's life, especially when child custody or support, spousal support and property division comes into play. Assembling a team of professionals can help you through a difficult time, such as an experienced Colorado divorce attorney, financial planners and even mental health professionals.

Source: pewresearch.org, "Is divorce contagious?" Rich Morin, Oct. 21, 2013

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