Does Divorce Spread Through Social Networks?




We’re coming late to this, but it was too interesting to pass up. Vaughan Bell of the blog Mind Hacks drew our attention to a study by a team of researchers including Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler (who co-wrote the book Connected) who found:

divorce can spread between friends, siblings, and co-workers, and there are clusters of divorcees that extend two degrees of separation in the network. We also find that popular people are less likely to get divorced, divorcees have denser social networks, and they are much more likely to remarry other divorcees. Interestingly, we do not find that the presence of children influences the likelihood of divorce, but we do find that each child reduces the susceptibility to being influenced by peers who get divorced. Overall, the results suggest that attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages serves to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship, and that, from a policy perspective, divorce should be understood as a collective phenomenon that extends far beyond those directly affected.

That image at the top? It shows the clusters of divorce in a connected set of 631 friends and siblings. (Click on image for larger view.)


Does Religion Protect Teens From Alcohol Abuse?

Tanya Button, a postdoctoral fellow in behavioral genetics at the University of Colorado Boulder, studied identical and fraternal twins in adolescence and early adulthood and found that:

genetic factors could influence problem alcohol use more in nonreligious adolescents than adolescents with a greater religious outlook. This attenuation in religious participants indicates that religiosity exerted a strong enough influence over the behavior of religious individuals to override any genetic predisposition. The same was not true for young adults, however, for whom the genetic influence was consistent across levels of religiosity.

The researchers aren’t sure why the effect doesn’t hold for young adults, but suggest it may be because there is greater social control in our teenage years.


Emotional Rollercoaster of Romance Worse for Men

Here’s an interesting finding: It turns out that the emotional ups and downs of a romantic relationship take a greater toll on men than women. Robin Simon, a professor of sociology at Wake Forest University, looked at 1,000 unmarried males and females between the ages of 18 and 23 and found that males got greater emotional benefits than females when their relationships were going well, but their mental health suffered more during strained and unhappy times.
Simon suggests this may be because women are more likely to have other close relationships with family members or friends, while young men tend to be emotionally intimate primarily with their girlfriends.
On the other hand, girls are more affected by whether or not they’re in a romantic relationship at all, meaning they benefit more from simply being in a relationship, but they’re more likely to be depressed when a relationship ends.


Do Personality Traits Influence Political Beliefs?

Apparently so, according to researchers from the University of Toronto. They found that people who are motivated by compassion, empathy, and equality tend to be liberal, while those who are concerned with order, tradition, and politeness tend to be conservative.
As the researchers explain:

Individuals who have high needs for order but low needs for equality are likely to score at the high ends of conservative ideology. Conversely, individuals with low needs for order but high needs for equality are likely to score at the high ends of liberal ideology. If, by contrast, both of these needs are relatively balanced, a more moderate political outlook is likely to be observed. Although the term “bleeding-heart liberal” is often used pejoratively, the current findings suggest that liberals do indeed tend to have higher levels of compassion. These higher levels of compassion likely contribute to the liberal’s preference for fairness and equality. In contrast, the term “compassionate conservative” may be something of an oxymoron. It is true that individuals with a more balanced personality profile may endorse both conservative and liberal values, but conservatism as a political orientation appears to be negatively associated with compassion. This does not mean there are no compassionate conservatives, but it suggests that the extent to which conservatives are compassionate may reflect the extent to which they possess the underlying motivation driving the liberal value of egalitarianism.

It’s an argument in line with the one Jon Hanson, director of The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School, made back in March, when he told Big Think about other research suggesting we’re predisposed to different ideologies based on certain personality traits and motivations— like how we feel about inequality, uncertainty, and new experiences; conservatives, for example, tend to like order, clarity, and closure, while liberals are more comfortable with chaos.

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