Divorce is Contagious

I’m mulling over the ramifications for this fascinating piece of research in terms of how they apply to the investing world…

Researchers have determined that you are more likely to be divorced if the people you call friends are divorced or if the friends of your friends are divorced (but this degree of once-removed lessens that chance).

From FactTank (emphasis mine):

a new study suggests that the divorce of a friend or close relative dramatically increases the chances that you too will divorce.

A research team headed by Rose McDermott of Brown University analyzed three decades of data on marriage, divorce and remarriage collected from thousands of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts…

Overall, they found that the divorce of a friend or close relative significantly increased the probability of divorce. For example, about 9% of the adult children of the 1948 study group were divorced at least once.  The findings suggest that the chances of divorcing increase to approximately 16% if a friend or close family member has been divorced — an increase of 75% over the overall divorce rate. The probability of divorce rises to roughly 12% if  friends and relatives of the participant’s friends and relatives divorces.  But the effect then vanishes, and the divorce of someone three degrees removed—a friend of a friend of a friend—does not significantly change the likelihood that a couple will separate.

I would argue that this happens because when people who are mildly unhappy and “sticking it out” hear about other cases where the couple went through a divorce, the option becomes more realistic, more tangibly possible.

When my dad left my mom twenty years ago, the women my mother was friends with forbade their husbands from associating with my father. He lost all his friends that first year because the other husbands in town were told by the wives that he was no longer a part of their lives. These women were not in possession of this data above – it was an instinctual thing (and, it turns out, a correct thing) that urged them to cut their spouses off.

How much of your attitudes toward investing strategies and outlooks are dictated by other investors with whom you choose to associate?

I don’t know the answer, but choose carefully just in case.


is divorce contagious? (FactTank)


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