Unintended fertility and the stability of coresidential relationships

Karen Benjamin Guzzo, Sarah R. Hayford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Having an unintended birth is associated with maternal and child health outcomes, the mother-child relationship, and subsequent fertility. Unintended fertility likely also increases the risk of union dissolution for parents, but it is unclear whether this association derives from a causal effect or selection processes and whether it differs by union type. This article uses data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth to compare union stability after intended and unintended births in coresidential relationships. Results show that coresidential couples are more likely to break up after an unintended first or higher-order birth than after an intended first or higher-order birth, even when accounting for stable unobserved characteristics using fixed-effects models. The negative association is stronger for marriages than cohabitations, despite the overall higher dissolution rate of cohabiting unions. We conclude that unintended fertility at any parity is disruptive for coresidential couples in ways that increase the risk of union dissolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1138-1151
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Cohabitation
  • Marriage
  • Unintended fertility
  • Union stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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