Family planning

Couples who plan their first pregnancy have a higher chance of staying together long-term than those who do not, a new study from Marriage Foundation has found.

Under a fifth (18 per cent) of married parents who planned their first pregnancy broke up by the time their child reached 14 years old, but almost a quarter (24 per cent) of those who did not plan to start a family had split up by the same point.

Amongst cohabiting couples, almost one in two (47 per cent) who did not plan their first pregnancy split by their child reached their teens (14 years old). But fewer than two in five (38 per cent) split amongst those who had made a plan.

The contrast over the first three years of a relationship was especially stark.

Only four per cent of married couples whose first pregnancy was planned split up within three years. In contrast over a fifth of non-married cohabiting couples who made no plan to have a child never made it to their third anniversary.

The analysis by research director of Marriage Foundation Harry Benson and Professor Steve McKay of the University of Lincoln uses data from almost 20,000 (18,374) mothers in the Millennium Cohort Study.

Harry Benson commented:

“Planning ahead is a well-established tool to help businesses and governments to set an agenda and work out the steps necessary to manage, achieve and succeed.

“Why should couples who plan a family together be any different?

“We know that planning and committing to a relationship by marrying hugely increases the odds of a couple staying together. Planning the first pregnancy is the second step to shoring up the family’s long-term stability.

“Our research shows being married at the time a child is born is one of the three most important factors in determining family stability – the others being mother’s age and relationship happiness.

“Over three quarters (76 per cent) of mothers who married before giving birth remained stay together for fifteen years or more, while less than a third (31 per cent) of mothers who did not marry at all did so.

“This week is Marriage Week. It’s a perfect time to plan ahead and give your family the best possible chance of a happy, healthy future together.

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder and chairman of Marriage Foundation, commented:

“As a couple, having children is probably the most rewarding, joyful activity you will ever jointly undertake.

“But as any couple will tell you it is often also the most stressful and demanding, physically and emotionally. It very often occurs at an early stage in your relationship when statistically speaking your relationship is most prone to breakdown.

“So the combination can make having children a risky business for your life together. This new research shows that thinking ahead and planning ahead when you are planning a family, whether you are married or not, significantly reduces the risks to your relationship. And this is crucially important because family stability is the key ingredient for children’s successful development.

“Marriage Week (7-14 February) is about thinking ahead in five centrally important areas of your life.

“Engaging in the creation and rearing of the next generation is far and away the most important of those five key areas both for the couple and indeed us all.”


Here you can download the Research Briefing Paper as a PDF and the Press Release where it is available.

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Planned first pregnancy ‘could lead to better chance of staying together long-term’

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