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Marriage before children is ‘key to marital success’

Couples who get married before they have children are much more likely to stay together than those who have children first, a new study claims.

Research conducted by conservative think tank the Marriage Foundation analysed data from 40,000 households in the UK. This indicated that as many as 77 per cent of the couples surveyed who had children after they got married were still together. This was significantly higher than the 44 per cent of couples still together who had children before tying the knot.

The Foundation also claimed that marriage had a bigger impact on a couple’s chances of staying together than education. According to the data, those who marry first have a higher rate of staying together regardless of education.

Of the women who married before starting a family, 82 per cent of those with a degree stayed together, as did 74 per cent of those in the same circumstances without a degree. Both of these are significantly higher than for the couples who had children first.

Harry Benson is the foundation’s research director. He said the new study demonstrates that if couples “make a plan for their future and marry before starting a family, they have a really good chance of making that relationship last.”

Although it is a positive step that “the social shame of having children outside marriage” has been effectively eliminated, there is still value in “crystallising commitment before starting a family”, he claimed.

Former High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge founded the Marriage Foundation in 2012. In response to this study, he said the belief that cohabitation is as stable as marriage “should be eradicated by clear public statements and education”. Whichever party is in government following May’s general election should “tackle the worrying rise in family instability in the UK”, he added.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Nordic says:

    So, according to this “research”, couples are more devoted to one another if they marry before having children? Did it occur to the Marriage Foundation (MF) that the causal connection might be the other way round? That what they actually measured is that couples which are highly devoted are likely to stay together (as well as nordicmarry early). Hence, it’s not the marriage certificate, it’s the devotion. Of course, that (more logical) interpretation does not fit with MF’s mantra in which marriage is the solution to all society’s problems.
    This kind of psudo research, which implies causal connections for which there actually is no statistical basis, is at best a waste of time and at worst a source of half-baked “truths” which misdirect public policy. I hope the Marriage Foundation does not receive any public money.

  2. Luke says:

    “Couples who get married before they have children are much more likely to stay together than those who have children first, a new study claims.”
    I would suggest that people who get married before having children are on average more likely to be sensible and prudent – and that will correlate with being more likely to stay together too.
    I would also suggest that people who marry before getting married are less likely to have been ‘bounced’ into the marriage and more likely on average to have a stronger connection in the first place with their prospective spouse.
    So I would argue that Harry Benson misses the point entirely with his ideas.
    Note: The words “on average” may be superfluous above but I am trying to avoid some people taking this personally and them highlighting the fact that :
    ‘my cousin Mavis and her husband Trevor were persuaded to get married first and now have been together in marital bliss for 50 years – so you’re wrong !’

  3. Luke says:

    I hadn’t seen Nordic’s post for some reason before I posted, he’s right of course.

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