It was the summer of love, it was the winter of divorce. It turns out divorce filings peak two times a year according to sociologists at the University of Washington.
Associate sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini have found a seasonal, biannual pattern of filings for divorce. The group analyzed filings in the Washington states between 2001 and 2015 and they found a pattern, filings peaked in March and August.
In their research they say that divorce filings may be driven by what they call a “domestic ritual” calendar that governs family behavior. So why these particular days? Well March and August are periods that follow the winter and summer holidays. Holidays are a sacred affair for families, while divorce is a bit of a taboo. You’re not going to do it over the holidays. The holidays are a chance for the couple to destress with the kids while they go camping and possibly put the relationship back together. But if the relationship is still broken by the end of this period, why carry on? Or so that’s the researchers hypothesize.
“People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past,” Brines said. “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.
“They’re very symbolically charged moments in time for the culture.”
This surprising find wasn’t what the team were after, they were initially looking for effects of the recession, such as rising unemployment rates and declining house values, on marital stability. What they instead found was a pattern that persisted throughout all these factors.
The team is starting to look at other states such as Ohio, Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona that have similiar divorce laws but different demographics, so far their data still holds.
“What I can tell you is that the seasonal pattern of divorce filings is more or less the same,” she said.