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:


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