Researchers looked at data on women who were married or cohabiting with a partner and who had their first child between 1985 and 1995. They compared the information to those who had their first child between 1997 and 2010.
Couples who had a baby first and married later in the 80s and 90s were 60 percent more likely to divorce than couples who married before they had their firstborn.
But just 10 years later, the couples who married after having children had no higher chance of getting divorced.
One reason for the change could be that living together before marriage no longer carries a social stigma.
“Living together has become a common part of the family landscape in the U.S. and many advanced industrialized countries,” lead researcher Kelly Musick told The Huffington Post. “There is less pressure nowadays to marry and more leeway in how to organize family life.”
Cohabiting couples who had children but never got married were the only group in the later time period that showed a significantly higher chance of breaking up.
The researchers found 30 percent of the couples who cohabited but never married separated within five years.
But they note that cohabiting couples that never marry tend to have lower incomes and less education than married couples, meaning that their breakups may not be due to children.
“Many couples may be jointly planning marriage and childbirth as the quality and commitment of their relationships grow, with little regard to which comes first,” explained Musick.