Two Washington sociologists presented their research findings recently at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. After studying the state’s divorce filings over a four-year period, they determined that divorce rates increased consistently in March and August every year. The researchers propose that divorce is subject to an unofficial “domestic ritual” calendar, and the fact that divorce rates rise following the winter holidays and prior to the start of the school year says something about the psychology behind divorce.
The sociologists approached the divorce study with the intention of connecting how economic factors like recession and unemployment impact the health of a marriage. When significant patterns began to emerge, they realized they might be on to something else. After compiling the data in Washington, they expanded their study to four other states and found the similar pattern of seasonal divorce spikes.
The Season for Divorce Follows the Holidays, Vacations
Though their rationale is purely speculative, the researchers believe that the divorce increase in March occurs a few months after the winter holidays for a reason. They believe spouses approach the holidays as a last ditch effort to save their marriages. There is a spirit of hope and optimism that often accompanies Christmas and Hanukah that may inspire couples to try to make their marriages work. After the holidays when couples realize resolution is not possible, it takes a few months to obtain legal counsel and begin the divorce process. By that time, it is March.
The August divorce rate spike is attributed to couples’ desire to begin the process after the family vacation and before the start of a new school year. This is most common wherein issues of child custody are involved. The research still needs to be reviewed by professional peers and tested across additional states. If the pattern continues to ring true throughout the rest of the country, it may help us dig deeper into the psychology of divorce.
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