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Teenage Marriage and Marital Breakdown: A Longitudinal Study

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The risk of marriage breakdown for teenage brides is substantially greater than for women who marry later. From the life histories of a British cohort born in 1946, we show that teenage brides frequently come from less advantageous family backgrounds, have received less education and are in occupations of a lower status than those who marry later. Such pre-marital factors did not distinguish between teenage marriages that survived and those that broke down by the time the women were in their early thirties. Antecedent factors associated with higher risk of marital breakdown were marital breakdown in the family of origin and, more importantly, neuroticism score at age 16. Women whose marriages broke down were less stable, even before they married, than those whose marriages remained intact. Conditions after marriage also distinguish broken marriages from surviving marriages. Women with short first birth intervals and greater numbers of children were more frequently found in the group with broken marriages. Additionally, buying one's own home and higher incomes appear to be constraints on marriage breakdown. Generally, the results suggest that the factors which have a more direct bearing on marriage breakdown are conditions after marriage and latent characteristics such as personality type.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Population Studies, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Publication date: March 1, 1986

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