Study: Child Before Marriage No Longer Increases Divorce Risk

For many generations, a couple who married after having a child together was much more likely to get divorced than those who married before having a baby. That time, it seems, has come and gone, at least according to a new study. Today, the rate of divorce is about the same for couples who have a child before marriage and those who have children after the wedding.

Family Studies

The research was conducted by a team led by Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management at New York’s Cornell University. Musick’s team analyzed thousands of responses collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its National Survey of Family Growth. The project included more than 5,600 couples with children in two different periods: between 1985 and 1995, and between 1997 and 2010.

Couples whose child preceded the marriage in the earlier group were found to be about 60 percent more likely to divorce than couples who married and then had children. In the later group, the discrepancy disappeared, despite a marked increase in the rate of childbearing before marriage. The divide today, the research indicated, is between those who marry and those who cohabitate, as parents who live together are almost twice as likely to separate after children as married parents are to divorce.

Social Factors

Of course, there are countless possible reasons for the drastic change over the last 30 years or so, but many of them are focused on changing cultural values. Couples who have a child before marriage now, in general, feel far less social pressure to rush into a marriage of which they are unsure. Thus, those that do get married face similar struggles as those whose children came later, but without the added challenges of marrying quickly due to the child’s arrival. Cohabitation has also become increasingly socially acceptable, so parents are able to offer a stable environment for their children, with the possibility of marriage for the right reasons down the road.

While having a child prior to marriage is not an indication of future marital problems, there are a number of possible legal concerns that may arise. It is important to understand your available options by speaking with an experienced Will County family law attorney. We can help you be prepared for whatever life may bring, and assist you in providing for your child’s best interests. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free consultation at one of our three convenient office locations.