Having kids out of wedlock used to increase a couple’s odds of divorce, but times are changing.
It’s no secret that we’re in the midst of a social revolution in the family sphere — women are increasingly taking on the role of family breadwinner and same-sex parents are becoming more widely accepted. Couples are also holding off on marriage in order to spend more time developing a career and working toward financial stability. Typical family structures and societal taboos have changed over the last decade or so, and now research finds that having kids before marriage no longer increases the chance of divorce.
The researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that looked at the relationships and family formation of thousands of couples in the United States who lived together with kids. The data sets included two different time periods, so the researchers could compare an earlier period between 1985 and 1995, with a later period from 1997 to 2010.
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In the earlier group, divorce rates were highest among couples who had had kids before getting married. They were 60 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who got married before having kids. In the later group, this effect disappeared, even after the researchers controlled for sociodemographic factors like race, education levels, and family upbringing, which are usually tied to risk of divorce.
Interestingly, the researchers noted that if a couple had kids and lived together without ever tying the knot, they were more likely to separate within five years than couples who married after having kids — in fact, their chance of separation was twice as high.
According to the divorce statistics organization, about 45 to 50 percent of all marriages result in divorce these days. The chance only increases with each subsequent marriage, with a whopping 70 to 73 percent of third marriages ending in separation.
Since divorce and multiple marriages are becoming more of a norm, people are holding off on marriage until they feel assured that they’re pledging their undying loyalty to the one. Study researcher Kelly Musick, an associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, told Live Science that more people are delaying marriage until they’re economically stable, employed, and have a permanent home.
She added, “There’s less social pressure now to marry [before having children]. Couples are establishing their relationships and maybe considering marriage, but not worrying so much about marriage before starting a family.”
It’s clear that society is experiencing a shift in attitudes toward conventional marriage and having children, and opening up to the idea of having kids before tying the knot. Throughout history, having kids out of wedlock was often looked down upon, but people are starting to break through the traditional constraints of society. Indeed, the times they are a-changin’.