Are you at risk of divorce cluttering?

Your friends are divorcing, now could you be next?

The break-up of relationships within groups of friends could be contagious, according to a new study, with ‘divorce cluttering’ a new social phenomenon.

According to researchers in North America, if one couple within a social circle divorces, then the likelihood of their friends’ relationships also disintegrating is largely increased, with a split between immediate friends increasing your own chances of divorce by an incredible 75%. Breathe a sigh of relief if they aren’t really close friend, as the figure decreases to 33% if the divorce is between friends of a friend and disappears almost entirely at three degrees of separation.

The report concluded that ‘divorce should be understood as a collective phenomenon that extends far beyond those directly affected’.

The study examined statistics from a group of individuals over a 32-year period, looking at the effect of divorce within the population of a small Massachusetts town near Boston, finding a clear process of social contagion. The statistics also followed people who had left the town and suggest that a divorced friend or family member who lives hundreds of miles away may have as much influence on risk of divorce as one who lives next door.

In the UK, the current divorce rate is relatively low with just 11.5 of 1,000 marriages ending in divorce, compared to the USA where 50% of married couples divorce within their first 15 years together. The report calls for the recognition of divorce as a disease that will continue to spread if couples do not talk openly about break-ups within their friendship groups.

Researchers behind the paper, have emphasised the importance of supporting friends through marital problems for both selfish and compassionate reasons, but in this fast and highly pressured world, we want to know: do we have the time to make other peoples’ problems are own?

In fact, if we’re being really brutal, would our free time not be better spent working on our own relationships to avoid marital misery?

Or perhaps you agree with the research and think that if we did spend more time helping our friends through marital crisis, we would be better informed to pinpoint problems in our own relationships before it is too late?

Whatever your thoughts, however extreme, Marie Claire wants to hear from you. Leave your thoughts on ‘divorce cluttering’ below…

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