Research and Analysis on the Health of Marriage and Family in America

  • Before “I Do”

    What Do Premarital Experiences Have to Do with Marital Quality?

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  • Facilitating Forever

    Help Couples Form and Sustain Healthy Relationships and Enduring Marriages

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  • Knot Yet:

    The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America

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  • 2012 State of Our Unions

    The President’s Marriage Agenda for the Forgotten Sixty Percent

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  • The Date Night Opportunity

    What Does Couple Time Tell Us About the Potential Value of Date Nights?

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Latest Releases More reports...

Before “I Do”:

Study: Bigger Weddings, Fewer Partners, Less ‘Sliding’ Linked to Better Marriages

The latest National Marriage Project report, co-authored by psychologists Galena K. Rhoades and Scott M. Stanley, explores the association between premarital experiences and post-marital quality among today’s young adults.

The report makes three key points:

1 – What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. In other words, past relationship experiences—and their consequences—are linked to future marital quality. For instance, men and women who had a child before marriage are less likely to enjoy a high-quality marriage.

2 – Sliding versus deciding. Couples who make intentional decisions regarding “major relationship transitions” are more likely to flourish than those who slide through transitions. For instance, among those who cohabited, couples who decided to live together before marriage in an intentional way are more likely to enjoy happy marriages, compared to couples who just slid into cohabitation before marriage.

3 – The Big Fat Greek Wedding Factor. Americans who had more guests at their nuptials are more likely to report high-quality marriages than those with a small wedding party, even after controlling for their education and income.

Rhoades and Stanley came to these insights by analyzing new data from the Relationship Development Study, a national study based at the University of Denver and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Between 2007 and 2008, more than 1,000 Americans who were unmarried but in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, and between the ages of 18 and 34, were recruited into the study. Comparing the make-up of that parent sample of 1300 subjects to 2010 Census data indicates that this sample was reasonably representative of unmarried adults in the United States in terms of race/ethnicity and income. Over the course of the next five years and 11 waves of data collection, 418 of those individuals got married. The authors looked closely at those 418 new marriages, their respondents’ prior romantic experiences, their spouses’ relationship history, and the quality of their marriages. This new report is based on their analysis of these American couples.

Click here for more from Galena Rhoads on “Vegas”

More from Scott Stanley on “Sliding vs Deciding”

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Facilitating Forever:

A Feasible Public Policy Agenda to Help Couples Form and Sustain Healthy Relationships and Enduring Marriages

High levels of divorce, cohabitation, and fragile unions, especially among the less educated in the United States, mean that unprecedented numbers of children are growing up in families without two parents in a healthy, stable relationship. This family instability poses increased risks to children’s well-being and healthy development.

This report by Alan J. Hawkins, Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University and independent writer Betsy VanDenBerghe documents federal and state policy experiments designed to help couples form and sustain healthy relationships and enduring marriages. It reviews the research to date on how effective these efforts have been and responds to legitimate concerns about them. The authors specifically advocate the following policies:

  1. Transferring direction of healthy marriages and relationships initiatives (HMRIs) from the federal government to states
  2. Downsizing the current policy that awards federal grants to a variety of community organizations delivering educational services and reallocating most of those funds to reimburse states
  3. Supplementing TANF funds by setting aside $10-20 of each marriage license fee
  4. Using state-directed funds to support a strategic set of relationship education services delivered by community organizations targeted primarily to young at-risk individuals and couples
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Knot Yet:

The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage In America

What does the rising marriage age mean for twentysomething women, men, and families?

One of the most important social developments of our time is the recent rise in age at first marriage, which now stands at 27 for women and 29 for men–a historic high. Delayed marriage in America has helped to bring the divorce rate down since 1980 and increased the economic fortunes of college-educated women, according to Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America, a new report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, and the RELATE Institute. But another important consequence of delayed marriage is that most Americans without college degrees now have their first child before they marry. By contrast, the vast majority of college-educated men and women still put childbearing after marriage. Knot Yet explores the causes and consequences of this revolution in family life, especially the ways that delayed marriage is connected to the welfare of twentysomethings, their children, and the nation as a whole.

Report Website

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