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Study: Childless Marriages Don’t Last

By sandymaple |

wedding-rings-sm250A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control reveals some surprising statistics about love marriage.  Namely, if you want your love to last, get married.  And then have some children. 

The Marriage and Cohabitation Study, which began in 2002, tracked the relationships of 12,571 men and women ages 15 to 44.  Of those, over 40 percent were married and 9 percent were living together.

Newly released data taken from this representative sample of U.S. couples finds that of those who were married, 78% remained so after five years.  Of those who were cohabitating without the benefit of a legal union, only 30% were still living together as an unmarried couple after five years.  But those numbers are a little misleading.   The reason about half of those cohabitations ended was because those couple got married within three years.

That’s all very interesting, but the most surprising statistic has to do with starting a family.  Women who gave birth 8 months or more after getting married were 79% more likely to celebrate a ten year anniversary.  Those who had already conceived a child prior to getting married had a 54% chance of making it to ten years.  And those who had a baby before marriage had a 55% chance of lasting ten years.

But what about couples who had no children at all?  According to the study, the marriages in which no children were born only had a 34% chance of making it to ten years.

There is a lot of information in the report that delves even deeper into marriage and cohabitation in America, but the upshot seems to be this: Married couples tend to stay together longer but living together leads to marriage about half the time.  And for couples who do marry, waiting until after the wedding to have children improves the odds of staying together.

Image: cliff1066/Flickr

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45 thoughts on “Study: Childless Marriages Don’t Last

  1. Bekka says:

    Living together led to MARRIAGE half the time, and another 30% were still living together – so the couples were still together roughly 80% of the time, or exactly the same percentage of the married couples who were still together. I don’t know if this is an oversight, intentional or just sloppy editing.

  2. [...] Study: Childless Marriages Don’t Last [...]

  3. Roddma says:

    Excuse me I havebeen married almost 12 years and no kids. I was 28 and husband 37 which helped a lot.These stats dont mention the ones who divorce after children. Most of those with kids stay in marriages out of obligation, religious reasons, or dont want their children in a broken home.

  4. Tripp says:

    Childless marriages don’t last as long? Hmm, sounds like bullcrap to me. Ever hear of those recent studies about happiness levels in marriage? Most of them pointed to being childfree as a major component to having a happier marriage. You + hubby + infant + toddler + child + preteen + teen = less free/me time, less money to go around because most of it is spent on clothes and toys and food for the kids, less attention paid to each member of the family, more headaches trying to coordinate all the kids’ sports schedules, etc. On the other hand, You + hubby + no one else but a pet or two = much more time, money, and attention to lavish on whatever you feel like, be it a personal hobby or humanistic volunteering.

  5. Tripp says:

    Forgot to add–
    I’ll take quality over quantity anytime, thank you very much.

  6. Erika says:

    These stats have to be taken with a grain of salt, because they don’t control for religion. The most religious people are most likely to get married, then get pregnant and not divorce. But that isn’t to say they are actually any happier in their marriages.

    Also – Roddma: These stats clearly DO take into account the people who get divorced after having children, 21 to 46% within ten years. The majority however do not.

  7. Janet says:

    That doesn’t necessarily imply that children are the factor that keeps a marriage together. It could be the 66% of childless couples who divorced decided not have children because their marriages were unstable?

  8. Valeri says:

    people are people. the rate of divorce should be the same across the board, children or not. you’re either committed or you’re not. you either love your partner or you don’t. so the decreased rate of divorce for couples tells me that they are staying together for the kids. terrible, terrible reason. to me this study says kids trap you.

  9. Kathy says:

    Who in the h e doublehockey sticks did this survey? My husband and I married 45 years in December….no children. Children is not why we got married, it was each other.

  10. Ingrid Dally says:

    I am happy to report that my darling husband and I are the exception to this statistic. We have weathered the storm of infertility, ridden the wave of childlessness and come up gasping for air. But we are are still here and we are still together! And we are more in love than ever. Want some tips? We’ll be happy to share!

  11. onyxorb says:

    I am much happier in my childless marriage then most everyone I know who have children. This study is missing a lot of significant factors. This article is trash.

  12. Paul R. says:

    You included 15-year-olds and other teenagers in a study about marital vs. non-marital relationships? Seriously?

  13. Jess says:

    Seems to me that people that are married without children are divorced more often because 1 adult wants kids and the other does not. So they divorce. It is completely RIDICULOUS to say they divorce on account of a lack of kids, or that they aren’t MUCH MUCH happier than couples with kids. So stupid.

  14. Kate says:

    I think this author is taking liberties and making hasty generalizations based on flat data. I am in a very happy childless marriage. I absolutely agree that most people in unhappy marriages with children stay together “for the kids sake”. Most married couples will say they argue most about 1) Money and 2) Kids. I’d like to see how many married couples divorce once the kids are out of the house and they realize they have nothing in common anymore.

  15. Cindy says:

    Kudos to Kathy who has been married 45 years and is childless. I agree 100%. My marriage is 6 years strong and childless. The ONLY reason bad marriages with children last longer is because….you guessed it…”stay together for the kids”. Bad marriages will end regardless of children or not.

  16. Julie says:

    I find it hard to believe that childless marriages, particularly when that is planned, don’t last. My husband and I are about to celebrate 11 years. I was 36 & he 37 when we married. I can’t understand the notion that just because you have a uterus you have to use it – I had to justify my childless position for years and am glad I am out of child bearing age so people will quite asking me when I am going to have a baby.

  17. B.E. says:

    I can see this being the case for a couple of reasons. One is when a couple has fertility issues and cannot become pregnant… This is a biggy for me because I am dealing with it now. Going through fertility issues causes a lot of strain on a marriage and some just cant take it. Also when communication on whether each spouse wants a child or not is not discussed before a marriage, a marriage may not last.

  18. Melody Golden says:

    Put this one in your studies….My husband and I were together three years before we married, we have been married with its ups and downs for seventeen years and we are about to celebrate our son’s first birthday. We waited 20 years for children so we could learn eachother and get through our wants and needs first…all is well and we love our son very much.

  19. Jona says:

    Childless marriage is an overuse excuse for infidelity of husbands, particularly , which brings about divorse or separation. It’s an easy escape for men!!!! Blame it on the issue of unfaithful husbands!!!! with or without children marriage can last a lifetime!

  20. Liz says:

    Sure, marriages with children may last longer…but it doesn’t mean they’re healthy marriages. My first marriage lasted six years and we split when our son was four. I hung in there as long as possible until I couldn’t take it anymore. Why? Our son. I didn’t work, had little support from anyone, and I didn’t want him to grow up in a broken home. However, a person can only take so much.

    I remarried two years after my divorce, and we have been married for 9.5 years. This marriage is much healthier, much happier, and honestly…much easier! He does not have any children, we are not having any together (I am AMA anyway), and I have placement of my son. There IS a child in the household, but I receive outside help from the ex and that is a stress reliever. We also have free time to ourselves when my son visits his father–a big plus. I believe this marriage is “better” because we did not have a child. Granted, our situation would not be ideal anyway for a child given we have no family support, but still….I don’t HAVE to stay in this marriage. I make more than my husband, am very independent, and could break camp if the marriage went in the crapper. I CHOOSE to stay in this marriage, and that, in itself, says it all. Marriages with children sometimes feels they are “forced” to stay in a marriage for financial, moral, or religious reasons.

  21. Donna says:

    I find the basis of this study perplexing. The study period is less than 10 years and less than 50% of those studied are in a committed relationship. So were the results based on those 40% married and 9% living together? Is so, can we assume that there were only approximately 6,300 Americans studied? I find so many problems with such a limited study group that no wonder their results differ from more comprehensive studies (for longer periods of time and a larger study group) on the same subject. Seems to me that we should question how a study is conducted before we even bother examining the results.

  22. Michelle says:

    That study is a load of crap….My husband and I don’t have children and we’ve been togther for 27 years…..

  23. mia says:

    While I have heard these statistics before, I am not to fond of them. In sociology we were told that if you live together for more than X amount of years with or without a child this happens that happens. Odds of divorce are higher or lower. My point is, I didn’t fit any of the statistics. Then I became one. I ended up divorced. One statistic that was true for me was, we never had a child and we were divorced before ten years. I do believe however just because you have children doesn’t mean a couple wants to be in the marriage but they stay anyway. Just because you can have children doesn’t mean you should. Statistics, Meh, it’s like coming up with figures to support something that is much more complicated than questioning 2000 people. It borders on stereotyping people to feel better about what you don’t know. If we believe in statistics to the core and live our lives that way, then what?, everyone who hasn’t been married is going to have or adopt a child before ten years so their marriage lasts over ten years? I’m not fully buying it.

  24. Taylor says:

    I’m not sure that just because a couple is childless, that the marriage won’t last. What I do know is, that people today are much too selfish to work out a “bad marriage”. Almost everyone in today’s society is so into themselves and all want instant gratification. If someone doesn’t live up to their ideals, they check out and contact a divorce lawyer. People are simply “copping out”. No one wants to work hard on anything, let alone a marriage. There’s too much fun to be had. Life is short. They are still young. Etc, etc. Well guess waht? We are living MUCH longer than our ancestors, so stop with the poor excuses. Hardly anyone takes marriage seriously anymore. Women just want to focus on themselves and their careers and men are just sitting back and letting themselves become emmasculated. People have forgotten their natural born roles and that is a HUGE reason for all of this matrimonial demise. Having children used to be a blessing when you were MARRIED. All of these unplanned and illegitmate births, due to pre-marital sex, have only made things worse. Women need to stop and think before they jump in the sack with some guy and gain some self respect. They only cause more problems because they should be in control of their their bodies, but they aren’t. Women used to make the rules, now they just accept them. Women today are no stronger than their ancestors, they are far weaker. A STRONG woman made a man “work” for her affections. She didn’t just “give” them to anyone who looked her way, like most of today’s women. There was a reason a courtship was such a long process in the olden days. It was so a woman could CHOOSE a man worthy of her love. Nowadays, everyone is so focused on sex and non-commitment, because no one wants to “complicate” anyone elses’s life. Well look at our society now. Can’t get much more complicated than this. Grow up people. Stop being whiny, over-sexed, self-indulgent “victims”. Let’s all take some lessons from our Grandparents and learn the meaning of TRUE love and hard work.

  25. Linda says:

    Hmm…interesting. I’ll go home tonight and tell my husband of nearly 24 years that our happy and childless-by-choice marriage should have hit the skids a long time ago. Seeing all these responses just reinforces my belief that these studies aren’t worth paying much attention to, other than as a curiosity. Who do they interview, anyway? They never seem to be representative of the people I know.

  26. Sherry says:

    I think this article is just trying to put the childless couples in general in a bad light – whether it’s by choice or circumstance that couples remain childless. My husband and I decided WAY before we married…and we didn’t live together beforehand…that we didn’t want children. I was 26 and he was 34 when we got married. 13 years later, we still don’t have kids and seem to be a happier couple than those couples who do have children. I wouldn’t change my way of life for anything at this point!

  27. Kim H says:

    Ummm…seems to me that this article was ‘dashed off’ with no real regard to the truth behind the facts.

    Apparently my husband and I are of the ’34%’; we’ll be married 11 years in a couple of months; We met on Labor Day weekend 11 years ago, he moved in at the end of that October, and we were married in December of that year. When you know its right, its right. He was 31, I was 37.

    We don’t have children; not to say we didn’t consider it at one time; however, as we progressed through our marriage, and what happened during that time, looking back, and where we are now, I am actually very pleased that we don’t have any children.

    I would not have it any other way; we are comfortable, are able to do things we would not be able to if we had kids, and are actually quite happy. One thing the article totally ignores is comaptibility and the allowance for growth in a marriage, something that usually does not happen when there are children involved. For at least 18 years after a child is born, sometimes longer if you have more than one child, you are dancing to the dancesteps of the patter of little feet until that child is out the door and on their own, and then you suddenly are alone again with the person you married, and you realize you have to pick up where you left off 18 years ago, and hope that the two of you have not changed so much that you can’t connect again, unless you were smart enough during that time to also pay attention to one another as well as the kid(s).

    The article was simply written without regards to real life and the fact that we all are about as happy as we allow ourselves to be, and the people are far dfiffernt than flat factual data that others hope represents society as a whole, and fails miserabley in too many ways.

  28. Melinda says:

    The bottom line is that BOTH partners in the marriage have to want to stay married. The children is one of the better excuses – but I’m certainly not going to fault the battered spouse with 3 kids who takes off before 10 years!

  29. rhonda says:

    um. didnt account for marriages that are FOR gaining united states citizenry. DUH! of course, they didnt have children. An american did it for the MONEY. the foreigner pays the loyal upright patriotic AMERICAN to get married for a few years on paper, then they divorce. voila! my ex husband did that. my best friend did that. it is VERY common in america. especially Florida !!!!! i wouldnt do it. ive been approached several times. no way jose!

  30. Tracy says:

    My husband and I made a choice to not have children. We’ve been married 21 years. We have the most loving and affectionate relationship of anyone I know. From many of the comments, a lot of childless couples feel the same way.

  31. Tamara says:

    Well, this headline certainly caught my eye. Content of article, not so much.
    What really interested me was the comment posted by Ingrid Dally. I would love some tips as it seems your story is my story. My husband and I have been married 14 years and at age 46 we have struggled with infertility through all our married years. I am the only woman I know, my age, who is childless. My husband and I are very much in love but we find it hard fit in with couples with children. We often aren’t included in activities with people we know because we don’t have children and are looked upon as different. Perhaps this is one reason my husband and I do have such a strong bond although sometimes some subconscious resentment on my part?
    Ingrid Dally I would welcome any tips you have on a childless marriage as well as a being a childless woman. Thank you!!!

  32. Danna says:

    I agree, this study is a load of crap. My husband & I have been friends for
    28 yrs., together for 25 yrs. & MARRIED WITHOUT CHILDREN for 20 yrs. That track record proves you don’t have to have kids to have a very happy marriage. We’re better off than every married with kids couple we know, we enjoy each others company & make each other laugh daily. Who did this study ???? Booo

  33. Stormy says:

    What utter crap. In the first place, most of the couples I know who rushed into having kids are actually divorced now. Those who waited a while before starting a family actually are still together.That includes my own parents, who were married for eight years before I was born. They’ve now been married for 35, together for 37.

    And what a HORRIBLE thing to tell people who want children, but have fertility issues, or health issues that make it unsafe to bear children. This article basically tells them that they’re doomed to a miserable, ultimately lonely life because they cannot have a child.

    I feel like this awful, awful article is doing nothing more than promoting procreation by inducing fear of divorce for those who have yet to have children. Shame on you, SandyMaple.

  34. Barb says:

    My husband and I have been married for 32 years without children. We are the oldest of 3 children, babysat younger siblings and all the neighbors children. We are now having our childhood. We enjoy each others company, laugh a lot, and we have a lot of things in common. We never lived together, dated 7 months before we got engaged, then married 9 months later. We moved away from family so there was no family influence to our relationship. We learned to get through our problems as a couple.

  35. AmandaSo says:

    You know what I find interesting? I find it interesting that the link that this Sandy Maple uses to substantiate her “findings” that childless marriages don’t last is a bogus link, leading to nowhere. I also find it interesting that her supposed conclusions fly in the face of virtually every study on marriage that indicates that childless couples, on average, report a higher level of closeness and happiness than couples with children — especially couples who have small children. Basically, without that “data” that’s connected to Sandy Maple’s invisible, broken, made-up link, there’s nothing that backs her up. I think we can just go on about our business now, since there’s really nothing to see here. (What some folks won’t do to get their names in the cyber-paper.)

  36. kristine says:

    Thanks to all the childless women who responded to this article! I married about 3 years ago, in my mid 30′s. My husband and I did not co-habitate before we married, and I had never lived with anyone else before we were married either. We have decided not to have children, which is good, as I recently found out I am likely unable, even if we change our minds (THAT’S not gonna happen!). Anyway, I want to thank those supportive and encouraging posters, as this is my first marriage, and I expect it to be the last. I sometimes worry we have made the wrong choice in not having children, but from all I have just read, we can be as happy as we imagine without offspring!

  37. Cricket says:

    Wow, I happen to have been married 14 years, got married at 19 and have noekids. Why do people like to make it seeem like such a horrible thing not to have kids?

  38. Kylee says:

    Or they just stayed together because they felt like they had to for the kids sake. Maybe they weren’t even happy.

  39. Julie says:

    Another smug article no doubt written by someone who reproduced easily. Let me clue you in: the reason why a lot of childless marriages don’t last is because infertility places such stress on a marriage that only the strongest unions can overcome it. Sign me 17 miscarriages, no children, lost $65,000 to a surrogacy agency, was a victim of extortion twice by egg donors, had a potential surrogate mother who had an arrest record for domestic violence call me “too ugly to be a mother”, and am married into a family of BREEDERS, some of whom have has as many as 9 kids. GUESS WHAT? AFTER 20 YEARS WE ARE STILL MARRIED. I am betting your marriage wouldn’t last that. Now go find and real job so we don’t have to read this crap.

  40. Julie says:

    PS to the Blogger:

    People who don’t have kids might just be people who can’t have kids. One car accident and you are in our shoes. Wipe that smug smile off your face and go get a real job where you will not be allowed to write such insensitive crap.

  41. wins richsana says:

    we are childless but still happily
    married for 15 going to 16 years now

  42. Livingdedgrl says:

    i read this article because it made me upset. i am married. however, i am unable to have children. i had to have a hysterectomy when i was 36 yrs. old. i am now 40. i didn’t have a choice. i read the one comment that said these articles/studies need to be taken with a grain of salt…THEY SURE DO! i have been married for 4 yrs. i hope to be married until death parts us, as we all wish, i am sure. i was married before, in my 20′s. i started trying to have children at the age of 25. at the age of 32 i finally gave up. wanna know why i gave up like i did all of the sudden one day, just throwing the ovulation tests in the trash….? because my x-husband came home, i said, i am ovulating, he said, i don’t care, i don’t even want kids! and proceeded to walk down the hallway into the bedroom and take a nap. i never spoke to him about it again and he never spoke to me about it. i divorced him 2 yrs later. so, i dunno, seems as tho, he didn’t want the kids! so where does this fit in the study?

  43. Wade says:

    I have been married for 20 years, yes my wif had a child before we met, however we don’t have children!! The statement is false about childless couples.

  44. JoannieO says:

    I’ve lived with my husband in 1973, when no one lived with one another, for 1 year, and then we married in 1974. We remain childless-’childfree’-for 40+ years & still going. All other members in our family are divorced and they had children! We are both professiionals; my husband is older than me by 4 years and is recently retired. I am still working as a RN and have a history of being a pediatric nurse, so I do love children. But I’ve never had the opportunity to be a mom, and now there are no regrets! I managed to receive 3 degrees, post-high school, something I believe I never would have done if I had children. I’ve had lots of work experience, including being an aerobic instructor for years, always have been a nurse and now a manager, and feel basically very happy with my life!

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