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

Publication Year: 
Personal Author: 
Carlson, Marcia J.
Corporate Author: 
Center for Research on Child Wellbeing
Technical Report
Page Count: 

Marital quality typically declines following the birth of a (first) child, as parenthood brings new identities and responsibilities for mothers and fathers. Yet, it is unclear whether nonmarital relationship quality follows a similar trajectory. This paper uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N=2,500) with latent growth curve and difference-in-difference models to examine relationship quality for co-resident couples over five years after a child's birth. Findings suggest that marriage at the time of the birth is protective for couple relationship quality, net of various individual characteristics associated with marriage. Among cohabiting couples at birth, those who subsequently marry have better relationship quality compared to all who do not marry, though not compared to stably cohabiting couples. (Author abstract)

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