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Wednesday
May072014

Divorce Can Be Contagious, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(FRAMINGHAM, Mass.) -- Married couples sometimes get divorced. That’s just a fact of life.

Another fact, which was apparently proven by Harvard, Brown, and UC San Diego researchers, is that the closer people are to couples getting divorced, the greater the likelihood that their own unions will also dissolve.

They chose Framingham, Massachusetts, population 67,000, to study the lifestyles of its inhabitants and the phenomenon known as social contagion. In this case, they looked at "divorce clustering," that is, how it spreads within a social circle.

What the researchers learned was those whose immediate friends got divorced were 75 percent more likely to split from a spouse than others who didn’t know people in that situation. Meanwhile, friends of friends of people who split were about a third more likely to end their own relationships.

After two degrees of separation, the risk of divorce dropped considerably.

Perhaps subconsciously then, according to the researchers, friends may help other friends going through a divorce not so much out of empathy but in an attempt to make sure their own marriage doesn't collapse.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio