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Children and Marital Disruption

Linda J. Waite and Lee A. Lillard
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 96, No. 4 (Jan., 1991), pp. 930-953
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2780736
Page Count: 24
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Children and Marital Disruption
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Abstract

Children constitute the prime example of "marital-specific capital," a resource worth substantially more inside a marriage than outside it. This article examines the effect of children on marital stability, using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, and tests the propositions that (1)children enhance marital stability, (2) younger children increase stability more than older children, and (3) under some circumstances children have no stabilizing effect or even increase chances that their parents' marriage will end. A proportional hazards model in continuous time is estimated and the modified to accommodate key features of the data. The results indicate that fistborn children increase the stability of marriage through their preschool years. Other children increase marital stability only when they are very young. Older children and children born before marriage significantly increase chances of disruption. The initially stabilizing and later destabilizing effects of children combine over the course of the marriage to give parents only a modestly higher change than childless couples of reaching their twentieth wedding annivesary.

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