A new study published in the journal Demography marks that in only two decades, society’s behaviors towards sex and marriage can significantly change. The study shows that premarital births no longer predict breakups, so long as couples marry after the child is born.
For those who doubt times have changed, note this from the study: In the 1990s, cohabited couples with premarital births that later married were 60 percent more likely to divorce than couples who married prior to having kids. However, a decade later, the statistics flat-lined as those same types of pre vs. post marriage couples had no increased chances of breaking up in relation to each other.
“Results support the notion that cohabitation has become a more normative part of the family formation process,” said Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management in the Cornell University College of Human Ecology.
First comes love, then comes a baby in a baby carriage, then comes marriage
Using data from the National Survey of Family Growth, researchers examined the stability of married and unmarried couples who had a child between 1985 and 1995, and similar couples later between 1997 and 2010.
Between those periods of time, there was no change in the stability of couples with children, with estimations that out of all pre and post marriage couples with children, 17 percent separated within five years.
Based on society’s behavioral changes, Musick notes that when it comes to marriage and children, couples are tending to think differently.
“The increasing stability of cohabiting couples and the declining importance of marriage timing—relative to parenthood—suggests that many parents may be jointly planning marriage and childbirth as the quality and commitment of their relationships grow,” Musick stated. “And that is with little regard to which comes first.”
The importance of tying the knot
Unlike the rising seniors seeking their engagement rings as quickly as possible, researchers said timing did not matter in a couples’ stability so long as they eventually got married down the road.
“Cohabiting couples tend to have less education and income than married couples, and it may be that those who do not marry are a particularly disadvantaged group,” explained Musick.
In the study, coauthored by Katherine Michelmore, postdoctoral fellow with the Ford School’s Education Policy Initiative at the University of Michigan, the results showed how unmarried cohabiting parents had a 30 percent breakup rate within five years—nearly twice as high as couples who did marry.
“Marriage is less a silver bullet than it is an outcome of a whole set of factors linked to stability and security that help parents stay together,” said Musick.