The Consequences of Parenthood for the Marital Stability of Young Adults

by Linda Waite, Gus Haggstrom, David E. Kanouse

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This paper, a reprint of an article that appeared in American Sociological Review, Vol. 50, no. 6, Dec. 1985, examines how the birth of the first child affects the stability of marriages over the short run; it uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972. The results show strong, positive effects of the first birth on the marital stability of young adults. The authors estimate that by the time the first child reaches his second birthday, more than 20 percent of the parents would have been divorced or separated if the child had not been born, compared to actual disruption rates of 5 to 8 percent.

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