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Trajectories of Couple Relationship Quality after Childbirth: Does Marriage Matter?

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  • Marcia J. Carlson

    (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

  • Alicia G. VanOrman

    (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

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    Abstract

    Marital quality typically declines after the birth of a (first) child, as parenthood brings new identities and responsibilities for mothers and fathers. Yet, it is less clear whether nonmarital, cohabiting relationship quality follows a similar trajectory. This paper uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N=2,108) with latent growth curve models to examine relationship quality for co-resident couples over nine years after a child’s birth. Findings suggest that marriage at birth is protective for couple relationship quality, net of various individual characteristics associated with marriage, compared to all cohabiting couples at birth; however, marriage does not differentiate relationship quality compared to the subset of stably-cohabiting couples. Also, cohabiting couples who get married after the birth have better relationship quality compared to all cohabitors who do not marry though again, not compared to stably-cohabiting couples.

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    File URL: http://crcw.princeton.edu/workingpapers/WP13-14-FF.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. in its series Working Papers with number 1481.

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    Date of creation: Sep 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:pri:crcwel:wp13-14-ff

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    Keywords: Marriage; children; parenthood; cohabiting; quality;

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    1. Sheena McConnell & Elizabeth A. Stuart & Barbara Devaney, 2008. "The Truncation-by-Death Problem: What to Do in an Experimental Evaluation When the Outcome Is Not Always Defined," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 5880, Mathematica Policy Research.
    2. Cynthia Osborne & Sara McLanahan, 2007. "Partnership Instability and Child Well-being," Working Papers 946, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    3. Lee Lillard & Constantijn Panis, 1996. "Marital status and mortality: The role of health," Demography, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 313-327, August.
    4. Reichman, Nancy E. & Teitler, Julien O. & Garfinkel, Irwin & McLanahan, Sara S., 2001. "Fragile Families: sample and design," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 303-326.
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