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

Marcia J. Carlson, Columbia University

This paper uses new data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to examine trajectories in couple relationship quality subsequent to the birth of a child in large U.S. cities. Using latent growth curve modeling, I analyze the level and change in couple relationship quality from the time of birth through five years later, including factors associated with improvement or decline. I compare couples who were married versus unmarried at birth. Then, among those who had a nonmarital birth, I compare those who got married versus those who remained together but did not legally marry. This research sheds light on the extent to which marriage may yield beneficial effects for families with children and has implications for current policy efforts to enhance relationship skills and encourage marriage.

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Presented in Session 98: Promoting Healthy Marriages: Can Government Play a Role?