In the past, having a baby before marriage may have spelled divorce if the couple later chose to get married, but times have changed, according to a new report.
Couples who tie the knot after their first baby, now stay together at the same rate as those who were married before their first child, according to research released today by the non-profit group, Council on Contemporary Families.
Researchers analyzed data on women who had their first child between 1985 and 1995 and compared it to those who had their first child between 1997 and 2010. Couples who had a baby first and married later in the earlier period were 60% more likely to divorce than couples who married before they had a child. But a decade later, the cocktail of a baby-first-then-marriage did not raise the couples’ risk of divorce, according to thousands of surveys from the CDC’s Survey of Family Growth.
The stigma around conceiving before marriage has diminished a lot in the last 25 years, says Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Schwartz is not affiliated with the study.
Couples are no longer rushing into a shotgun wedding if they conceive, and instead taking things at their pace, she said.
“If people move in and have a kid without marriage it is not a promise to never get married,” Schwartz told USA TODAY Network. “It may be that waiting to marry later is a better idea in terms of the pressures in their lives.”
Between the 1985-1995 group and the 1997-2010 group, a lot changed, says Kelly Musick, an Associate Professor of Policy Analysis and Management, who conducted the research.
Childbearing before marriage nearly doubled, from 17% having a child before marriage to 35%. The exception seemed to be parents who lived together but never married. They found 30% of the couples who cohabited but never married separated within five years, says Musick.
Musick said that throughout the study they controlled for socio-demographic factors like education and income level.. She notes that for the most part, cohabiting couples have lower income, education, and it could be that those who forgo marriage are from a more disadvantaged group.
She said the bottom line is that a there is “more of an acceptance of cohabitation before marriage and a place this new family form is taking place among the American family landscape.”