Shotgun Weddings are on the Decline 26606

You know the old saying: first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes so-and-so with the baby carriage. And once upon a time if things didn't go in that order, mom and dad were not happy, and you know, you were an embarrassment to the entire family, and therefore must run out and get married ASAP before anyone could do the math on when you got married and when you had the baby. Well, it's 2014, and that is no longer the case! In fact, marriage doesn't even factor into some pregnant women's equations—ever. More and more couples are choosing to move in together when they're expecting, but aren't willing to take the matrimonial plunge.

According to data collected by the National Survey of Family Growth between 2006 and 2010, 18 percent of single women who became pregnant in the United States opted to move in with their baby's daddy before the child was born, while only 5 percent of them chose to get married in advance of the birth.

The Daily Mail reports that as recent as the early 1990s, 25 percent of expecting couples got married, and at that time only 11 percent of expecting couples moved in together. During the 2000s, 60 percent of all births were by married women; 24 percent were by moms living with their boyfriends; and 16 percent were by women not cohabiting with the future dad.

The funny thing is that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to get married, and the more likely that you are to stay together. Presumably, the more educated you are, the more likely you'll have a better paying job, and the more likely you can afford the big wedding, and the more likely you are to take the relationship seriously because you've gone to all of that expense and taken vows. And let's face it—it's much harder (at least on paper, as in financially speaking) to get a divorce than it is to just walk away from a relationship. (That said, the divorce rate in America is still over 50 percent. Forty to 50 percent of first marriages survive, while divorce rates are even higher for people having been married multiple times.)

The sad news is that researchers at Harvard and Cornell have found that only about half of mothers who were living with their boyfriends when their kids were born were still in relationships with the biological fathers five years later. Not to say that children from parents who've split can't come from happy homes (heck, I know plenty of well-adjusted people from divorced families and parents who've never married!), but according to the New York Times, "researchers have consistently found that children born outside of marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems." So does having the marriage certificate actually mean more than just you're married—but that you're going to stay together longer and have happier kids? Is living together just a trial marriage for those who had accidental pregnancies, who may not have been that into each other anyway? So many questions!

TELL US: Were you married, living together or flying solo before you found out you were pregnant? Do you think that decision will truly affect your kids?

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Image of pregnant bride courtesy of Shutterstock.