Unwed Parents' 'Magic Moment' Lasts 'Til Kid Is 3

Window in which marriage is likely lasts longer than thought

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 2, 2014 4:38 PM CDT

(Newser) – Attention, unmarried-and-maybe-procrastinating parents of the world: Conventional wisdom has long held that you have a "magic moment," or window, after the birth of your child in which it's most likely you'll put a ring on things. But new research from Duke University shows that the magic lasts a little longer than previously thought: Rather than being limited to the period right after birth, the window lasts all the way up 'til Junior turns three, say researchers. "And for some (racial) subgroups," says study author Christina Gibson-Davis, "that moment lasts even longer." African-American moms, for example, mostly married after the child's third birthday.

Other findings, per the survey of 5,255 kids born outside wedlock in the US:

  • Some 64% of kids born to unwed parents eventually saw mom tie the knot, though the caveats here are that it wasn't necessarily to their dad and that many of those unions dissolved. "These marriages are fragile," says Gibson-Davis. "If you think that stable marriage is beneficial for kids, very few kids born out of wedlock are experiencing that."
  • The odds of those marriages lasting are better when dad, rather than step-dad, is involved. After a decade, 54% of marriages involving a step-father crumbled, while that number was 38% among biological fathers. Race did not factor here.
  • Gibson-Davis' takeaway: Despite much gnashing of teeth about out-of-wedlock kids, we really don't know a lot about their reality. "Those who would promote marriage have more work to do," she says.
  • Jesse Singal, writing in New York, seconds that. Instead of lauding matrimony as the be-all, end-all for happy, stable families, why not push social policies that "really address the issues that make it so hard to be a new mom or dad"? For example, "giving one or both parents paid time off to take care of their baby—now that would be a way to keep them happy, less stressed out, and more likely to stay together and raise their kids in a healthy way."

The magic moment after a baby is born in which unmarried couples tie the knot lasts longer than previously thought.
The "magic moment" after a baby is born in which unmarried couples tie the knot lasts longer than previously thought.   (Shutterstock)
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