Cohabitation and Children Outside Marriage Linked to Higher Probability of Breakups: Aussie Study

Wed Jun 23, 2010 - 12:15 pm EST

By Hilary White

June 23, 2010 ( – Second marriages are more than 90% more likely to break up than first marriages, according to a new study by Australian researchers. The researchers also found that cohabiting, having children before marrying, and an imbalance between partners in the desire for children are all correlated with marital breakup.

“The overwhelming bulk of research on cohabitation and marital instability finds that cohabitation before marriage is linked to a greater probability that the marriage will fail,” said the researchers.

The study, titled “What’s Love Got to do With It?” by researchers from the Australian National University, found that 20% of couples who had children before marriage, either from a previous relationship or the same relationship, were separated compared to just 9% of couples without children born before marriage.

With data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA), the study tracked the history of 2,482 married or cohabiting couples over a period of six years to determine what factors might have contributed to marital “instability.”

A family history of divorce was also found to be a significant influence in the success of failure of marriage. Sixteen percent of men and women whose parents were separated or divorced suffered marital separation, compared to 10% for those whose parents did not separate.

Despite research in the UK showing marriages with more children being more likely to break up, the number or age of children born within the marriage were found not to be a factor in marital breakups in the Australian study.

Other factors listed as contributing to divorce or breakup were “dissatisfaction with the relationship, low household income, husband is unemployed, wife drinks more than her husband, and one spouse smokes where the other does not.”

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