A study released this month by the American Sociological Association has found a surprising trend in the timing of divorce filings. According to an article published by ScienceDaily.com, researchers from the University of Washington have uncovered what they believe to be the first actual quantitative proof that divorce filings increase both seasonally and bi-annually, peaking consistently in the months of March and August.
It’s the belief of the researchers that their evidence points to an increase that takes place following winter and summer holidays, which means the increase is driven by what they refer to as a “domestic ritual calendar”. Culturally, the holidays taking place in winter, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, and the holiday period of summer, when children are typically out of school and family vacations are planned, are considered important annual events for families. While there has long been a noticeable trend of divorces being filed after the New Year, this new study may tell us why.
Julie Brines, an associate sociology professor at the University of Washington, who along with doctoral candidate Brian Serafini analyzed 14 consecutive years of divorce filings in Washington state to arrive at their findings, put it into perspective this way, “People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past. They represent periods in the year when there’s the anticipation or the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start, something different, a transition into a new period of life. It’s like an optimism cycle, in a sense. They’re very symbolically charged moments in time for the culture.”
Brines went on to explain that because holidays can also be emotionally stressful for couples, problems within a marriage can be highlighted when those optimistic holiday expectations don’t live up to their expectations, leading them to finalize a decision to part.
Further examination of divorce filings expanded to include four additional states — Ohio, Minnesota, Florida and Arizona — where the pattern persisted, in spite of the researchers initial hypothesis that different economical conditions and employment rates might alter their findings. The comprehensive findings of their research will be presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.