Having kids before marriage no longer considered a divorce risk

Having kids before marriage no longer considered a divorce risk

We often write about the ways in which family demographics and dynamics are changing. Because of these changes, “conventional wisdom” about marriage and divorce is also evolving.

As an example, it was once believed that couples who lived together before getting married were more likely to divorce than couples who did not cohabit (until tying the knot). Studies in recent years have debunked this correlation, noting that the age at which cohabitation and marriage began were more reliable predictors of divorce risk.

It was also believed that cohabiting couples who have a child together prior to getting married are more likely to get divorced, compared to couples who get married before having a child. The results of a recent study show that this is no longer true – at least not anymore.

Researchers examined data from the National Survey of Family Growth on married and cohabiting women. Specifically, they studied one group of women in relationships who had their first child between 1985 and 1995, and a second group of women who had a first child between 1997 and 2010. Their goal was to determine comparative divorce rates based on which came first: Children or marriage.

For couples in the first group (85-95), having a baby before getting married was seemingly a big risk factor for divorce later on. Couples who had children first were reportedly 60 more likely to get divorced than couples who married first.

However, that same correlation was not found among the couples in the second group. Study results showed that divorce risks were the same regardless of whether a couple married first or had children first.

Although the reasons for this change haven’t been conclusively proven, it may be logical to assume that changing cultural values play a role. Couples who conceived outside of marriage used to face much more pressure to “do the right thing” and get married. These so-called “shotgun weddings” were based more on moral expectations and fear of embarrassment than on building a long-lasting relationship.

For the most part, cohabitation and premarital sex are no longer stigmatized. Therefore, couples who conceive children outside of marriage can make marriage decisions based on more relevant factors, such as their compatibility as couple.

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