Having a Baby Before Marriage Is No Longer Tied to Divorce, Report Finds

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By Cassie Kreitner, Senior Editor
Updated March 2, 2017
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You know the saying: First comes love, then comes marriage…

And you also know that this life stage trajectory is less common than it used to be. Many couples are choosing to have a baby before getting married, and the good news is that they’re staying together at the same rate as couples who follow the more traditional path.

In the past, decades of research showed that couples who had a child before getting married not only carried a stigma, but also a higher risk of divorce. But a new report from the Council on Contemporary Families determined these findings are outdated.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth, comparing sociological information from nearly 6,000 couples who had their first children between 1985 and 1995 with those who gave birth between 1997 and 2010. They found many differences when it comes to couples who have children together and whether they eventually tie the knot.

The number of couples who had their first child together before getting married doubled between the two decades surveyed, from 17 percent to 35 percent, although fewer of these couples ended up getting married than in the past; 48 percent of those who had a child between 1997 and 2010 got married within five years, compared to 59 percent of those who had a child between 1985 and 1995.

But of the couples who do decide to get married, they’re more committed than ever to making it work. In 1995, research found that couples who married after having a child were 60 percent more times likely to divorce, but only a decade later, the couples who got married after the birth of their first child had no greater risk.

Whether married or not, all couples can expect to make some adjustments and changes after baby is born. Here’s how to prepare for those relationship pitfalls.

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