Is Divorce Contagious?

You've heard the statistics before: half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. But why is the rate so high?

M. Christian Green of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University suggests that divorce is actually "contagious" in her article There But for the Grace: The Ethics of Bystanders to Divorce [pdf].

Vicki Larson summarizes the issue over at Huffington Post:

Green suggests it may be wrong to view divorce as merely a personal choice with limited impacts. In looking at "the public effects of the divorce revolution, its implications for both the moral formation of individuals and the well-being of society, and what, if anything, organizations of government and civil society should do," divorce might be better seen as a decision that has far greater implications, she says. Like other so-called private actions, divorce may have "wider, sometimes unintended and unanticipated, effects on surrounding communities and the wider society," she states. [...]

Green cites studies that suggest divorce is somewhat contagious, not in a disease sort of way, but in its ripple effect -- one couple's divorce can influence divorce among siblings, friends, neighbors and even co-workers.


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The way I have understood it is not that half of all marriages end in divorce, though that keeps getting repeated, but rather that in a given year there will be half as many divorces as marriages. Those marriages will be from different years. SO the divorce rate is not as high as people believe.
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