Children of mothers who married young are heavily influenced in their marital expectations by whether their parents stayed together or divorced, a new study has found.

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Children whose moms married young and stayed married were eager to marry young, too.

Around 40-50 percent of marriages in the United States are estimated to end in divorce or permanent separation, and the risk of divorce in subsequent marriages is about 60 percent.

Although the study by Ohio State University finds that children are more likely to marry young if their mom married young, this is only the case if the marriage did not end in divorce.

The nationwide study used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), a survey of men and women who were born 1957-1964, and aged between 14-22 years when first interviewed in 1979. Follow-up surveys were conducted with their children.

The study included 2,581 mothers and 3,914 of their children.

The results of the study show that mothers who married young, and remained married, had children who were eager to marry in their late teens to early 20s.

Children of mothers who married young and divorced – although eager to marry themselves one day – wished to marry later in life.

The researchers write in the Journal of Family Psychology:

After witnessing their parents’ divorce, the children of divorce may feel the need to take extra time and care in choosing a partner.”

Rachel Arocho, the study’s lead author and a research fellow in human development and family science at Ohio State, notes that the marital expectations for children with divorced mothers could be encouraging:

“Those who wait longer are more likely to have lasting unions when and if they do marry,” she says.

Marital expectations were the lowest in children whose moms moved in with another partner after divorce. These children had low expectations that they would marry at all.

“That may be because they have seen that marriage is not the only pathway for a committed romantic relationship,” says Claire Kamp Dush, senior author of the study and associate professor of human sciences and sociology.

Arocho writes that delaying marriage past early to mid-20s is not necessarily a recipe for a successful marriage. There is research that shows that marrying past ages 22-25 does not benefit in preventing divorce.

According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, people in the United States have an average age of 29.2 for men and 27.5 for women in first marriages.

However, Arocho reveals that a quarter of marriages still take place at an earlier age, and understanding what influences those people to marry early may help guide efforts to prepare young brides- and grooms-to-be to have happier marriages.

Healthy marriages are important for the physical and mental health of couples, and the American Psychological Association note that growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational, and social problems.

Lastly, the study showed that if mothers divorced, their children were more inclined to cohabit with their partner from an earlier age.

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