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Report Explores How Children Affect Marriages

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A major new report from The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia is shedding new light on often-asked questions about modern family life—how having children affects happiness levels.  The report, “When Baby Makes Three,” is the 2011 edition of the “State of Our Unions” series, an annual examination of marital mores in America.  The report considered data from three nationally representative surveys, including a new survey of 1,400 heterosexual married couples ages eighteen to forty-six.

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The main findings of the report, according to its executive summary, are threefold:

  • Married parents are more likely than their childless peers to feel their lives have a sense of meaning and purpose.
  • Parents who are married generally experience more happiness and less depression than parents who are unmarried.
  • Parenthood is typically associated with lower levels of marital happiness.


Additionally, the report finds ten factors that predict which marriages will succeed in combining parental and marital happiness.  Those factors include shared housework, good sex, marital generosity, date nights, and having a college degree, as well as what the report calls “institutional” marital values like shared religious faith, commitment, the support of friends and family, a sound economic foundation provided by a good job, and quality family time.

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Taken together, these ten factors suggest “a hybrid model of married life appears to be the best path to successfully combine marriage and parenthood for today’s parents,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, the report’s lead author, in a statement.

Get all of the latest parenting news from Holly Lebowitz Rossi on her blog Parents News Now.

This article first appeared on Parents.com.

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