Does Having Kids Before Marriage Increase Your Risk for Divorce?

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Divorce is more common than it was a hundred years ago, but somewhat less common that it was a couple of decades ago. That said, many people find the idea of committing to a child easier than committing to another full-grown adult, and are choosing a partner for parenting before they go all-in with a wedding.

The good news? If you do decide, after having kids, to pull the trigger on an ‘I do,” your odds for ending up divorced are no better (or worse) than if you married before getting pregnant.

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While divorce rates are on a decline, it’s important to point out that the number of people getting married in the first place is also 25-30% lower than it was during the boomer generation. Fewer people (and couples) are having children at all, as well, and for the first time ever there are more unmarried than married women under thirty giving birth.

Kelly Musick from Cornell University was the study‘s coauthor, and she told Live Science that she and her team analyzed data from the CDC to compare families who had babies between 1985-1995 and those who had babies between 1997-2010. The result?

Since 1997, couples who had children first were likely to get married eventually, and no more likely to get divorced than people who married before having kids.

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Why? The study says there is more than one factor at play.

“They’ve got marriage on the back of their minds, but wait to take that step until they feel they’ve met these pretty high standards. The increasing stability of relationships involving cohabitation and the declining importance of marriage timing relative to parenthood is consistent with waning social pressure to marry and the blurring of boundaries between marriage and cohabitation.”

The study did not compare planned pregnancies to unplanned ones, which could make a difference since unexpected surprises can be a huge challenge for couples to navigate. Unexpected pregnancies can make couples feel more pressure to commit to each other even if they have a sense that it won’t work.

Sexologist and author Nikki Goldstein told Fatherly “…there might not have been a long term commitment made before the baby is born, for some there might be questions. Like if they did not have a child together would they have stayed together.”

Issues like that can breed resentment, but in couples who are already living together and plan to bring a baby into the mix, it’s not a consideration.

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So, as long as your pregnancies are planned, you don’t have to say “I do” before little ones come along.

But don’t think that means you don’t have to work on your marriage and make it a priority when you can – kids or not, married first or not, the chance for divorce is always lurking.

I’ll leave you on that happy note!