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New Trend: First Comes Baby, Then Comes Marriage

Katlyn Joy |17, June 2013


A unique moment has happened in American society. The average age of a woman's first marriage is now 27. The average age to become a mother is 28. This is referred to as the Great Crossover. The baby before marriage trend is the focus of a new study by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virgina, who authored the study along with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy as well as Relate.

The authors point to a number of factors as to why the seeming reluctance to marry until later, regardless of whether children are on the horizon. According to the study, it appears one reason is the general slower pace at which twentysomethings are approaching big life tasks such as completing education, getting their careers on track and building a family.

Delayed marriage has benefits, such as a divorce rate that has slowed since the early 80's. People who marry later, rather than in their teens or early twenties are more likely to stick.

However, the rate of childbirth has not slowed as much as the wedding rate. In fact, today 1 in 2 women who is pregnant is not married and may not ever marry. This has some negative factors for the family and the child. Problems such as emotional difficulties and school problems are more common to children born out of marriage even if their parents cohabitate. Furthermore, children born to cohabitating couples are three times more likely to experience a family break up than children born to a married couple.

Another key difference is the outcome between college educated women and other women. For college educated women, no crossover is seen as a pattern. While this group is also delaying marriage, they are delaying childbearing until 2 years after marriage on average. Those with less economic advantage and less education delay marriage but not children. This leads to big discrepancies in how well the delaying works out.

For women with college educations, delayed marriage brings over ,000 more a year in annual salary. However, only 3 out of 10 Americans have a 4-year college degree.

Reasons cited for the delays in marriage despite having kids include the lack of good jobs for men, and a basic shift in beliefs about marriage. About 77 percent of women aged 18 to 29 believe it's OK to have a baby without being married. Also two-thirds of Americans believe the reason to marry is for personal fulfillment, not for raising children.

Like so many things in life, there is an upside and a downside to delayed marriage. Clearly, most people agree that having a solid family unit made up of two parents will be the best case scenario for raising children. And of course, most of agree that what is best is not always what happens. Delaying marriage until we are more prepared, mature and have our path set can bring stability and prosperity. But if we go ahead and have kids and don't get our degrees, we can see the obstacles are a bit more difficult to negotiate and avoid.

Celebrities have been doing this for some time. However, they don't have the nasty business of trying to scrape by on a small single parent income. Here is a list of some of the more well known, first comes baby then comes marriage couples:

  • Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman
  • Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom
  • Alicia Keyes and Swizz Beatz
  • Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy
  • Jessica Alba and Cash Warren
  • Isla Fischer and Sacha Baron Cohen
  • Salma Hayek and Francois-Henri Pinault
  • Keri Russell and Shane Deary
  • Maggie Gyllenhall and Peter Sarsgaard
  • Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck
  • Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas
  • Victoria and David Beckham

Sources: Psychology Today

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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