Summer vacations may increase risk for divorce: study

According to a study from the University of Washington, incidence of divorce may follow a seasonal pattern

To everything, there’s a season. And it seems the same is true for divorce.

Citing a new study, a Bloomberg article reports that filings for divorce spike twice a year, in March and August. University of Washington sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini found divorce filings seem to follow the annual schedule of family holidays: lowest in November and December, then peaking in March after the passage of winter holidays and Valentine's Day. Filings drop in April and don't spike again until August—after July, the most popular month for vacations.

Declared as "the first systematic, quantitative evidence of a pronounced and durable 'seasonal' pattern in the timing of filings for divorce", the study comes from analysis of 14 years of divorce data from before, during, and after the Great Recession. It found seasonal trends were consistent regardless of the state of the economy.

One explanation for the trend is that couples may be delaying divorces during "socially sensitive periods in the calendar", the authors write. However, this explanation would suggest divorce filings should spike in January, immediately after Christmas and New Year's.

Why, then, do couples wait until March? Brines and Serafini argue that vacations and holidays make people optimistic about the future and instill the belief that they can repair relationships. But after spending lots of time with spouses, or after the usual stresses and strains of holidays, people find themselves more unhappy than before their vacations began. They refer to this as the "broken promise" theory.

"These rituals and transitions can be stress-inducing, and thus may intensify dissatisfaction or discord past a breaking point in some couples," the authors write.

Related stories:
Most couples-to-be haven’t discussed their finances, study finds
Where’s the love?