Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What I've Been Reading

I came across some recent research entitled Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample Followed for 32 Years (McDermott, Fowler, Christakis, 2010). It offers an interesting perspective about how divorce can be linked to one's social network and how divorce can turn into an epidemic in social circles. The basic premise and findings is that those who divorce often are befriending those who have already followed that path. If this research is true, it validates the importance of surrounding couples who are struggling in their relationship with those who already have healthy marriages. As related to marriage, this research essentially maintains that hope can reproduce hope, but also the opposite can be true -- that despair can produce greater hopelessness. It is an excellent article which exemplifies Proverbs 6:27-28:

 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
       without his clothes being burned?
Can a man walk on hot coals
       without his feet being scorched?

Here is the abstract of the research:

Divorce is the dissolution of a social tie, but it is also possible that attitudes about divorce flow across social ties. To explore how social networks influence divorce and vice versa, we utilize a longitudinal data set from the long-running Framingham Heart Study. We find that divorce can spread between friends, siblings, and coworkers, and there are clusters of divorcees that extend two degrees of separation in the network. We also find that popular people are less likely to get divorced, divorcees have denser social networks, and they are much more likely to remarry other divorcees. Interestingly, we do not find that the presence of children influences the likelihood of divorce, but we do find that each child reduces the susceptibility to being influenced by peers who get divorced. Overall, the results suggest that attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages serves to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship, and that, from a policy perspective, divorce should be understood as a collective phenomenon that extends far beyond those directly affected.

If you are interested, here is a link to the actual paper and research:


Thursday, June 24, 2010

What I've Been Reading

I just picked up and began re-reading Gordon MacDonald's Ordering Your Private World. In one of the chapters he discusses the idea of person caught in the "Golden Cage." That is, the person who is driven to the point where success is all that matters, be that in the your work, being "spiritual," or any other thing that we attempt to accomplish. The person is so driven that the end is all that matters--the accomplishment. Some of his key points about driven people are:
  • A driven person is most often gratified only by accomplishment
  • A driven person is preoccupied witht he symbols of accomplishment
  • A driven person is usually caught in the uncontrolled pursuit of expansion
  • Driven people are not likely to bother themselves with the honing of people skills
  • Driven people are usually abnormally busy, are averse to play, and usually avoid spiritual worship
As Charles Spurgeon wrote about these ideas:

Success exposes a man to the pressure of people and thus tempts him to hold on to his gains by means of fleshly methods and practices, and to let himself be ruled wholly by the dictorial demands of incessant expansion. Success can go to my head, and will unless I remember that it is God who accomplishes the work, that He can continue to do so without my help, and that He will be able to make out with other means whenever He cuts me down to size.

 This book would be a great summer read for those who need to re-order their lives to get things back under control, and it is definitely not just for those who are driven. It's a thoughtful book, which unlike some Christian books, offers you practical ways to make changes in your life, which are concrete. If you are a person who is struggling with what it means to be "successful," be that in your work, or as a parent, or as a volunteer in a ministry, this book can help you reclaim the what it means to live as a "called" person. It may help you become the person who can have lofty and realistic goals, but also one who doesn't let these ambitions dictate their lives.