Revisiting the Decoupling of Marriage and Childbearing: Couples’ Fertility Intentions and Unwed Mothers’ Relationship Trajectories

J. Bart Stykes , Sam Houston State University

Drawing on the 2006-2015 cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) pregnancy file, I consider mothers’ relationship trajectories following a first, nonmarital birth. Among 5,211 mothers having a first nonmarital birth, 2,336 occurred in cohabiting unions with 2,875 occurring to single mothers. Discrete-time event history models (n = 92,681 person-months for cohabiting mothers and n = 156,991 person-months for single mothers), document an association between couples’ intentions and relationship trajectories. Preliminary findings suggest that consideration of couples’ intentions improves our understanding of unintended childbearing and stability of cohabiting birth unions. Couples where the mother did not intend the birth experienced a higher risk of dissolution, but couples’ intentions had less consistent associations with the transition to marriage. The association between couples’ intentions and single mothers’ relationship trajectories was largely explained by sociodemographic characteristics, which underscores the importance of selection in understanding single mothers’ relationship trajectories.

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 Presented in Session 10. Fertility, Family Planning, Sexual Behavior & Reproductive Health 2