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Resources: 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”

For answers to these questions, see the full report.

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