Are Child-Free Couples More or Less Likely to Divorce?
- Some research links childlessness to divorce
- Possible explanations for this link
- Reasons why childless couples are happy
- No definitive trend
Do childless couples experience more marital unhappiness than couples with children? That's been a common perception over the past decade, with some research even bearing this out. But is it really true? And if so, what causes couples with children to remain married while their childless counterparts seem more eager to throw in the towel?
Some research links childlessness to divorce
The makings of a happy marriage have been the subject of countless discussions, debates, and research. In our search for the magic elixir, many factors get put under the microscope, including the absence of children in marriage and whether this affects marital bliss.
All couples are unique, and married relationships are highly nuanced. This makes general correlations difficult. But over the past decade, whether a couple has children or not has emerged as a focal point when looking at matrimonial harmony. A common perception that stemmed from this is that married couples without children are more prone to divorce than married couples with children.
While there aren’t many studies that directly answer the question of why, research does suggest some connection between divorce and not having children.
Possible explanations for this link
Married couples may decide to stay together for the kids
Married couples with children often prioritize the stability and well-being of their children over their personal happiness. They know the data regarding divorce and children, and many couples fear the ramifications of a broken home on their children’s mental and emotional health.
Instead of divorcing, they may decide to hang in there for the kids’ sake.
Limited finances prevent parents from spending money on divorce
Raising children requires significant financial resources. Given the cost of maintaining separate households, child support, and other related expenses, some married couples may regard divorce as a luxury they simply can’t afford.
Married people have less time to reflect on their personal happiness
Married couples with kids often lead busy lives filled with school, extracurricular activities, and other demanding parenting responsibilities. Who has time to consider personal contentment when there’s no time left for that kind of introspection at the end of the day?
Married people are actually happier
Married couples who go on to have kids may actually find more satisfaction in their relationship. Sharing the joys and challenges of raising children gives them a common goal and focus that deepens the bond between them as a couple.
Infertility puts a strain on childless relationships
Today’s research indicates that about 9% of men and 11% of women of reproductive age in the U.S. experience fertility issues. For those whose marital identity is closely intertwined with being a parent, the inability to have kids can lead to strain and blame in the relationship.
In one Danish study, couples who were evaluated for infertility were more than three times as likely to get divorced than couples with a baby.
Reasons why a childless couple can be a happy couple
On the flip side, an increasing number of couples are delaying or choosing not to have kids at all. And they often go on to have thriving, happy marriages.
In fact, there are several reasons a childless couple may even be happier than their child-bearing counterparts.
They are more focused on shared goals and values
Married couples who choose to remain childless often do so after much reflection and discussion. This could indicate a deeper understanding and alignment with mutual life goals and values.
They have more time for each other
Without the added responsibilities of parenting, a married couple might have more time to spend on their relationship, engaging in shared interests and finding time to do fun things together, such as traveling.
They have more financial freedom
Without the financial burden of raising kids, a married couple might have less financial stress, less financial conflict, and more resources for things they enjoy.
They can be more flexible with their time
Life without kids can offer a great deal of flexibility. Career changes, spontaneous plans, and relocation become far more feasible without worrying about how these things would affect their children.
They find strong community support systems
Usually, married couples with kids spend most of their time within the family unit or with other parents.
Childless couples often cultivate strong networks of friends and get involved with the broader community. In turn, they reap the rewards of friendship and emotional support.
No definitive trend
While research has touched on marital harmony (or disharmony) in childless couples, no definitive trend links married couples without children to increased divorce rates. Every relationship is unique, and what works for one couple won’t work for another. Whether childless by choice or circumstance, couples can still find lasting happiness and fulfillment through mutual respect, understanding, and love.
ReferencesDivorce in Europe: New Insights in Trends, Causes, and Consequences of Relationship Break-Ups. (2020). European Studies of Population.
How Common is Infertility? (January 2018). Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Services.
Divorce or End of Cohabitation Among Danish Women Evaluated for Fertility Problems. (January 2014). Obstetrics and Gynecology.