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Shotgun marriages no more likely to backfire, says report

New research is busting a long-held truth — that having children before getting a ring meant your marriage was almost certainly doomed.

This news might get America’s poodle skirts in a wad.

It’s become an accepted truth that couples that mixed up the nuclear family formula had a higher risk of splitting. Last year researchers at the Council of Contemporary Families debunked the two-decade myth that couples who shacked up before marriage divorced at much higher rates. Now, new research by CCF is busting another long-held truth — that having children before getting a ring meant your marriage was almost certainly doomed.

“Until now […] it seemed prudent to tell couples to ‘put a ring on it’ before they had a baby,” CCF’s Virginia Rutter wrote in a press release. “Couples who married after their first child was born were much more likely to get divorced than couples who married before starting their family.”

No more, says CCF. The researchers compared data from the 1995 and 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, which collects information from both married and cohabitating couples. In the older set, couples who lived together, had a child and then married had a 60 percent higher chance of getting a divorce than couples who married before becoming parents, backing up sociology’s institutional knowledge.

Analysis of the 2006-2010 data, however, shook things up. Couples who similarly mixed up that whole love-marriage-baby carriage thing had no greater risk of getting a divorce than couples who married before having a child.

But ultimately, CCF finds that though the timing of the big day doesn’t matter, eventually tying the knot does. The findings show that 30 percent of cohabitating couples with a child who never got married split within five years, at twice the rate as their wedded counter parts.

“It is not at all clear, however, that if we could magically assign these cohabiting couples to marry, their family relationships would be more stable,” CCF’s Kelly Musick, an associate professor at Cornell wrote. “In general, 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.”

So it isn’t that marriage is some magic Band-Aid, and perhaps more that the couples who marry are more predisposed to sticking together.

This research is particularly important as cohabitating couples are becoming the norm. As Rutter notes, the majority of today’s nuptials take place between couples who were already living together.

Even if you start your family outside of the most puritan form, you are no more likely to divorce even if your kid tags along for your honeymoon. The Beavers might not like it, but it works.

 

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