Luma Simms is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center; her essays, articles, and book reviews have appeared in a variety of publications including National Affairs, Law and Liberty, The Wall Street Journal, National Review, First Things, Public Discourse, the Institute for Family Studies, and others.

The Infectious Effects of Divorce and Marriage

Many of us know a family who has gone through a divorce; it is heartbreaking. But we've come to expect it from the younger generations. What's more baffling is when the older generation divorce. Even those of us who have divorce in our own history are affected when the long-term marriages of our grandparents or other elder family members end. When a retired boomer couple we knew—married for 43 years—divorced after moving to a retirement community, our children began having many doubts and questions about marriage. One day around the dinner table, one of the kids voiced their anxiety, stating that “you never know” if both mom and dad will be there for you as you grow up. This statement (and many besides), and the uncertainty, skepticism, and confusion in our children about a fundamental institution like marriage, worried us. We realized we had to be proactive in our teaching; we couldn't assume that they would absorb respect for the institution.

What we know from experience—that divorce has an infectious effect—researchers Rose McDermott, James Fowler, and Nicholas Christakis confirm in their study, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample. They write, “The results suggest that divorce can spread between friends. Clusters of divorces extend to two degrees of separation in the network.”

Read the rest at the Institute for Family Studies

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