The National Marriage Project publishes reports on a number of topics pertaining to marriage. Through these reports, NMP seeks to provide accurate information and analysis regarding marriage to journalists, policy makers, religious leaders, and the general public—especially young adults.

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 Rhoades on “Vegas”

More from Scott Stanley on “Sliding vs Deciding”

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
Facilitating Forever Cover

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

2012 State of Our Unions:

The President's Marriage Agenda for the Forgotten Sixty Percent

This new report from the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values outlines the present marriage and family crisis in the nation, and makes several policy suggestions for the President and Congress.

These policy suggestions include: ending the marriage penalty, increasing the child tax credit, helping young men become marriageable men, ending anonymous fatherhood, a “Second Chances Act,” requiring premarital education for men and women forming stepfamilies, engaging Hollywood and the mass media, and launching community-oriented campaigns about the benefits of marriage.

The report is coauthored by Elizabeth Marquardt, Brad Wilcox, David Blankenhorn, Robert I. Lerman and Linda Malone-Colon.

The Date Night Opportunity by Brad Wilcox and Jeff Dew:

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

The Date Night Opportunity, the report seeks to answer three important questions about the potential value of date nights for contemporary couples:

  1. How might date nights improve the quality of relationships for couples?
  2. Is one-on-one couple time associated with higher-quality relationships and lower divorce rates among couples?
  3. Is parenthood itself an obstacle to a good marriage?
  4. Are particular types of couples–e.g., couples with children, secular couples, less-committed couples–more likely to benefit from regular date nights?

2011 State of Our Unions:

When Baby Makes Three: How Parenthood Makes Life Meaningful and How Marriage Makes Parenthood Bearable by Brad Wilcox & Elizabeth Marquardt

When Baby Makes Three: How Parenthood Makes Life Meaningful and How Marriage Makes Parenthood Bearable, the 2011 State of Our Unions report from the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values, relies on data from three nationally representative surveys–including the new Survey of Marital Generosity–to answer four important questions about contemporary family life:

  1. Is it emotionally easier to parent alone in a world in which a good marriage seems increasingly out of reach?
  2. Do married parents report more meaningful lives than their childless peers?
  3. Is parenthood itself an obstacle to a good marriage?
  4. What are the social, cultural, and relational sources of marital success among today’s parents?

2010 State of Our Unions:

When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America by Brad Wilcox

When Marriage Disappears argues that shifts in marriage mores, increases in unemployment, and declines in religious attendance are among the trends driving the retreat from marriage in Middle America. This report finds:

  1. Marriage is an emerging dividing line between America’s mod- erately educated middle and those with college degrees.
  2. Marital quality is declining for the moderately educated middle but not for their highly educated peers.
  3. Divorce rates are up for moderately educated Americans, relative to those who are highly educated.
  4. The moderately educated middle is dramatically more likely than highly educated Americans to have children outside of marriage.
  5. The children of highly educated parents are now more likely than in the recent past to be living with their mother and father, while children with moderately educated parents are far less likely to be living with their mother and father.

Why Marriage Matters by Brad Wilcox (& colleagues):

Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences

Co-sponsored by the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, this new report by a group of 18 family scholars summarizes new findings from the social sciences on divorce, cohabitation, and marriage in the U.S. According to W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and the lead author of the report, “In a striking turn of events, the divorce rate for married couples with children has returned almost to the levels we saw before the divorce revolution kicked in during the 1970s. Nevertheless, family instability is on the rise for American children as a whole. This is mainly because more couples are having children in cohabiting unions, which are very unstable. This report also indicates that children in cohabiting households are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems—drug use, depression, and dropping out of high school—compared to children in intact, married families.”

To order a copy of the report, click here.

The Great Recession and Marriage:

The long arm of the Great Recession has had a signal impact on the quality and stability of American married life in recent years, according to a new survey by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. According to this new data, although the recession has brought considerable stress to many American couples, there are also two silver linings when it comes to marriage:

• Many couples report that the recession has deepened their commitment to marriage.

• Among those who were considering a divorce prior to the recession, a large minority of couples say the recession caused them to postpone or put aside divorce.

The data come from the National Marriage Project’s Survey of Marital Generosity (SMG), a nationally representative survey of 1,197 married Americans aged 18–45. The SMG was conducted by Knowledge Networks from December of 2010 through January of 2011 and is the first survey to focus on the impact that the Great Recession has had on the quality and stability of marriage in the United States. This report is being released in connection with National Marriage Week, which runs February 7–14, 2011.

2009 State of Unions:

Money & Marriage by Brad Wilcox and Elizabeth Marquardt

The 2009 State of Unions: Money & Marriage makes clear that money matters for marriage.  Income, employment, debt, assets, and the division of household labor all shape the quality and stability of married life in the United States. This report features the following essays:

  • The Great Recession’s Silver Lining? by Brad Wilcox
  • Bank on It: Thrifty Couples are the Happiest by Jeff Dew
  • Marriage and the Great Recession by Alex Roberts
  • The Smart Money: She Saves, He Spends by Ronald Wilcox
  • A Feminist-Friendly Recession? by Christine Whelan

Plus the 2009 social indicators of marital health and wellbeing.

More Reports...