Date of Award

Fall 1980

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This study looks at the seasonal periodicity of a number of different social pathologies, including suicide, mortality resulting from disease, the onset of physical illness, and criminal behavior. Using time-series data from the United States, for 132 consecutive months between 1965-1975, it is found that virtually all of the behaviors investigated do demonstrate some consistent pattern of seasonal incidence.

A sociological theory, based upon the macro-level concept, "the pace of social life," is suggested as the cause of these seasonal variations in pathology. This theory contends that, for reasons which are cultural, economic and/or climatological in nature, certain periods of the year are especially likely to be characterized by concentrations of various changes in and disruptions of people's routine, day-to-day lives. Because of the need for personal and social readjustment which they entail, such periods are experienced as being potentially stressful for the members of society, resulting in an increase in the incidence of social pathology during, or immediately following, these periods of change.

To operationalize the independent variable in this theory--the occurrence of important social events, and changes in the nature, frequency, and intensity of social activities and relationships--macro-level measurement device, termed the Index of the Pace of Social Life, is created. This index translates a number of the "life events" contained in Thomas Holmes' Social Readjustment Rating Scale from the individual level of analysis to the macroscopic level, and its purpose is to provide a means of determining the relative amount of change inherent in the social events and activities characterizing a social system at any particular point in time.

This theory is tested empirically, using Box-Jenkins procedures of time-series analysis and cross-correlational techniques. The results obtained provide support for the hypothesis that changes in the pace of social life within a social system act as an influence upon the temporal distribution of social pathologies within that social system, as (a) mortality resulting from disease, (b) persons missing work due to illness, (c) suicide, and (d) homicide are all found to increase simultaneous with and/or in the six months directly following increases in the Index of the Pace of Social Life.