, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 55–63 | Cite as

Marital stability throughout the child-rearing years

  • Tim B. Heaton


Although there is evidence that the number and ages of children influence marital stability, studies have not systematically tracked the risk of marital disruption throughout the child-rearing years. This study uses marital and fertility histories from the June 1985 Current Population Survey to examine this issue. Continuous-time regression models with ages and numbers of children as time-varying covariates are estimated. Net of controls for age at marriage, year of marriage, education, and marital duration, stability increases with family size up to the third child but starts to decline as family size reaches five or more children. Aging of children is disruptive until the youngest child reaches adulthood, after which marriages become much more stable. Arrival and aging of children is an important dynamic with strong implications for marital stability.


Family Size Marital Satisfaction Marital Quality Child Rear Marital Dissolution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albrecht, S. L., Bahr, H. M., & Goodman, K. L. (1983). Divorce and Remarriage-Problems, Adaptations, and Adjustments. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  2. Becker, G. S., Landes, E. M., & Michael, R. T. (1977). “An Economic Analysis of Marital Instability.” Journal of Political Economy, 85, 1141–1187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Belsky, J., Spanier, G. B., & Ravine, M. (1983). “Stability and Change in Marriage Across the Transition to Parenthood.” Joumal of Marriage and the Family, 45, 567–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Billy, J. O. G., Landale, N. S., & Mclaughlin, S. D. (1986). “The Elect of Marital Status at First Birth on Marital Dissolution Among Adolescent Mothers.” Demography, 23, 329–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bumpass, L., & Mburugu, E. K. (1977). “Age at Marriage and Completed Family Size.” Social Biology, 24, 31–37.Google Scholar
  6. Cherlin, A. J. (1977). “The Elect of Children on Marital Dissolution.” Demography, 14, 265–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Espenshade, T. J. (1979). “The Economic Consequences of Divorce.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 41, 615–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Glenn, N. D., & Mclanahan, S. (1982). “Children and Marital Happiness: A Further Specification of the Relationship.” Joumal of Marriage and the Family, 44, 63–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hampton, R. (1975). “Marital Disruption: Some Social and Economic Consequences.” In Five Thousand American Families—Patterns of Economic Progress (Vol. 3), eds. G. J. Duncan & J. N. Morgan. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, pp. 163–187.Google Scholar
  10. Heckman, J. J., & Walker, J. R. (1987). “Using Goodness of Fit and Other Criteria to Choose Among Competing Duration Models:ACase Study of Hutterite Data.” In Sociological Methodology, ed. C. C. Clegg. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association.Google Scholar
  11. Halfman, L. W., & Manis, I. D. (1978). “Influences of Children on Marital Interaction and Parental Satisfactions and Dissatisfactions.” In Child Influences on Marital and Family Interaction: A Life-Span Perspective, eds. R. Lehner & G. B. Spanier. New York: Academic Press, pp. 165–213.Google Scholar
  12. Hofman, S. (1977). “Marital Instability and the Economic Status of Women.” Demography, 14, 67–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hofman, S., & Holmes, J. (1976). “Husbands, Wives, and Divorce.” In Five Thousand American Families Patterns of Economic Progress (Vol. 4), eds. G. J. Duncan & J. N. Morgan. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, pp. 24–75.Google Scholar
  14. Houseknecht, S. K. (1979). “Childlessness and Marital Adjustment.” Joumal of Marriage and the Family, 41, 259–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hunter, K. A. (1984). “Marital Dissolution: An Economic Analysis.” American Economist, 28, 63–68.Google Scholar
  16. Kitson, G. C., Babri, K. B., & Roach, M. J. (1985). “Who Divorces and Why.” Joumal of Family Issues, 6, 255–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Koo, H. P., & Janowitz, B. K. (1983). “Interrelationships Between Fertility and Marital Dissolution: Results of a Simultaneous Logit Model.” Demography, 20, 129–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kunz, P. R., & England, J. L. (1989). “Age-Specific Divorce Rates.” Joumal of Divorce, 12, 113–125.Google Scholar
  19. Lee, G. R. (1988). “Marital Satisfaction in Later Life: The Effects of Nonmarital Roles.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 775–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Martin, T. C., & Bumpass, I. I. (1989). “Recent Trends in Marital Disruption.” Demography, 26, 37–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mattessich, P., & Hill, R. (1987). “Life Cycle and Family Development.” In Handbook of Marriage and the Family, eds. M. B. Sussman & S. K. Steinmetz. New York: Plenum Press, pp. 437–466.Google Scholar
  22. Moore, K. A., & Waite, I. J. (1981). “Marital Dissolution, Early Motherhood and Early Marriage.” Social Forces, 60, 20–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Morgan, S. E., Lye, D. N., & Condran, G. A. (1988). “Sons, Daughters, and the Risk of Marital Disruption.“ Sociology, 94, 110–129.Google Scholar
  24. Morgan, S. P., & Rindfuss, R. R. (1985). “Marital Disruption: Structural and Temporal Dimensions.” American Journal of Sociology, 90, 1055–1077.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rankin, R. P., & Manker, J. S. (1985). “The Duration of Marriage in a Divorcing Population: The Impact of Children.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47, 43–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rollins, B. C. (1989). “Marital Quality at Midlife.” In MidlifeMyths: Issues, Findings, and Practice Implications, eds. S. Hunter & M. Sundel. Beverly Hills: Sage, pp. 183–193.Google Scholar
  27. Rollins, B. C., & Feldman, H. (1970). “Marital Satisfaction Over the Family Life Cycle.” Tournai of Marriage and the Family, 32, 20–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rollins, B. C., & Galligan, R. (1978). “The Developing Child and Marital Satisfaction of Parents.” In Child Influences on Marital and Family Interaction: A Life-Span Perspective, eds. R. Lehner & G. B. Spanier. New York: Academic Press, pp. 71–105.Google Scholar
  29. South, S. J., & Spitze, G. (1986). “Divorce Determinants.” American Sociological Review, 51, 583–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Thornton, A. (1977). “Children and Marital Stability.” Tournai of Marriage and the Family, 3, 531–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. — (1985). “Changing Attitudes Toward Separation and Divorce: Causes and Consequences.” American Journal of Sociology, 90, 856–872.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Thornton, A., & Rodgers, W.I. (1987). “The Influence of Individual and Historical Time on Marital Dissolution.” Demography, 24, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Waite, I. J., Haggstrom, G. W., & Kanouse, D. E. (1985). “Parenthood and Marital Stability.” American Sociological Review, 50, 850–857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Worthington, E. I., & Buston, B. G. (1986). “The Marriage Relationship During Transition to Parenthood: A Review and a Model.” Tournal of Family Issues, 7, 443–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tim B. Heaton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyBrigham Young UniversityProvo

Personalised recommendations