New Academic Study Finds Having Children Before Marriage No Longer Predicts Divorce

In the early 1990s, unmarried couples who cohabited, had a baby together, and later married, were 60 percent more likely to divorce than couples that married before having a child. New research from scholars at Cornell University and the University of Michigan finds that this is no longer the case. Unmarried couples who cohabitate and have a baby together and then get married are no more likely to divorce than couples who marry before they have a child.

MusickKelly Musick, an associate professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University and a co-author of the study, states that “cohabitation has become a more normative part of the family formation process. 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. And that is with little regard to which comes first.”

Dr. Musick has been on the Cornell faculty since 2008. She previously taught at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Dr. Musick is a summa cum laude graduate of Boston University, where she majored in economics and international relations. She holds a master’s degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The article, “Change in the Stability of Marital and Cohabiting Unions Following the Birth of a Child,” was published on the website of the journal Demography. It may be accessed here.

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