New Research Shows That Divorce May Be “Seasonal”
New research just released by the University of Washington indicates that there are significant trends when it comes to particular times of the year when it’s more common for couples to divorce. Specifically, after analyzing data over the course of 14 years, the study found that there are peak months for divorce—March and August—and a significant drop in overall divorce filings in the fall months.
What do the experts say as to why this is the case? Some are indicating that this has to do with a “domestic ritual calendar”; as in, people tend to divorce during the months when it is most convenient, given everything going on in their lives, thus avoiding winter and summer holidays, as well as months when children are busy in school. These same experts also indicate that people tend to exhibit rising expectations during holidays—for example, the expectation that perhaps a relationship is going to get better—only to realize that, come the New Year, it may not. Once the New Year comes, it tends to take a few months to contact an attorney and initiate the proceedings (hence filing in March instead of January).
Experts also noted that filing for divorce during the winter and summer holidays, which they called “symbolically charged moments in time for the culture, is practically “taboo” in our society. Yet, at the same time, these holiday months can be stressful and contribute to fractures in the relationship, creating the peak in divorce filings after the holidays are over, potentially because the holiday didn’t live up to expectations.
This study was actually initially tied to economic factors and the recession, as the researchers initially set out to study rising unemployment rates and declining house values, and the effect they had on marital stability. Interestingly, the divorce filing pattern appeared to shift somewhat during the recession, moving the peaks to earlier (prior to March) and in the fall as well. However, researchers indicated that these trends were not statistically significant; rather, they simply related to more volatility overall and uncertainty about financial considerations, such as unemployment, housing values, etc.
It is important to note that the study did have its limitations: it only looked at the actual dates when couples filed for divorce, but not at surrounding circumstances, such as whether and how long the couple had been living apart, prior to filing. Many would argue that the physical separation date is an important one, as it is a significant marker of when a marriage is actually dissolved.
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