Baby Before Marriage Doesn't Lead to Divorce, Study Says

A new study shows parents who have a baby before getting married are no more likely to get divorced than those who have children after.
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More and more couples are moving in together, having kids, and tying the knot later on. In fact, the rate of cohabiting parent is almost double the rate it was 10 years ago.

So what does that mean for the baby? New research from the Council of Contemporary Families, a nonprofit group, refutes the common belief that parents who marry after having a child are more likely to split up than parents who marry before.

Researchers examined data collected from the National Survey of Family Growth, which is conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The data came from 2,656 couples who participated in the 1995 survey and 3,046 from the 2006-2010 surveys.

In 1995, 17 percent of couples had a baby prior to marrying. Many of these couples went on to marry: 21 percent got hitched within one year and more than half (59 percent) were married within five years.

The more recent data showed more couples (35 percent) had a child before marriage, but about 10 percent less ended up tying the knot.

When it came to divorce, there was a remarkable difference between the two groups. The 1995 couples were 60 percent more likely to get a divorce when compared to parents who married before baby. The 2006-2010 couples, however, were no more likely to break up than couples who had married first.

The study also noted that the only parents with a much greater chance of splitting up were those who never married.

Associate professor Kelly Musick, who conducted the research, told "‹USA Today she believes this significant change has been caused by an overall change in thinking, saying there is "more of an acceptance of cohabitation before marriage." This new family form is simply taking its place among the expanding landscape of American families.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn.

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