Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Is Facebook Increasing Divorce?

A Fox News story suggests it may:

The dangers of social networking sites for the young are well documented, but increasing numbers of middle-aged users are also having their private lives thrown into turmoil by online activity.

Marriage counselors claim sites like Facebook are contributing to separations and divorce as bored 40 and 50-somethings try to reconnect with childhood sweethearts. British divorce firm Divorce-Online said Facebook was cited in one-fifth of the divorce petitions it processed last year...

Australian Family Relationships Clearing House manager Elly Robinson said online behavior was causing friction in households.

"People will come in (for counseling) where one partner may deny their online behavior has been any sort of problem, but the issue is ... if it's upsetting one of those people in the relationship, it's a problem," she said.

Robinson said the lack of research on the effect of online behavior on relationships was surprising, considering the widespread use of social networking.

"Relationships develop more quickly online because inhibitions are lowered, it's easy to exchange information, people are online 24/7, there's an (endless) amount of people you can link up with who are there for the same reason, real life pressures fade away ... it's a bit of a fantasy world," she said.

Relationships Australia vice-president Anne Hollonds said while the Internet had made it easier to reconnect with lost loves, people ultimately had to take responsibility for their actions.

"The Internet doesn't make people have affairs.

"It's become the pathway of choice for many people but I don't think that means the Internet is breaking up families," she said.

"Everyone has some degree of fantasy about a love that might have been from the past and the technology now helps you find these people.

"But there's no evidence to suggest that had the technology not been available, you wouldn't have had an affair with someone else anyway."

Read the full story here.


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Although it appears from a counsellor's perspective that there may be more avenues for relationship opportunities with facebook leading to a higher rate of divroce, there is not any statistical evidence to support this. According to the US Census Bureau, in 1900 the rate of divorce for males was 84 per 100,000 and 114 per 100,000 for women. In 1950, the rate was sitting at 1,070 per 100,000 for men and 1,373 per 100,000 for women. In 1980, divorce rates for men had grown to 4,539 per 100,000 for males and 6,577 per 100,000 for females. In 2000, the US Census Bureau reported that the divorce rate for men was 9,255 per 100,000 and 12,305 per 100,000 for women. Facebook began in 2004 and there is no reliable nationwide census data to suppor the notice that divorce is becoming more common. In fact, in some cases it is actually declining (but this is becasue the marriage rate is declining). Nevertheless, facebook des appear to have given us a far more distant view of our social network and interactions.

Posted by: Australian Lawyer | Apr 19, 2010 8:45:24 PM

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