Late marriages, early babies

In the early seventies, early marriage was very popular. Brides in their early twenties usually had their first baby about two years into the marriage. This pattern is different today. Young brides no longer rush into motherhood, their first baby is born after an average four years.

Older brides, on the other hand, want their babies sooner. Thirty year-old women who marry have their first baby after two years of marriage, women aged 35 at marriage about one and a half years.

Period between marriage date and first child, by mother’s age

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Marriage is not taken for granted the way it was thirty years ago. Around 1970 nine out of ten women got married. In 2000 women have less than 75% probability of getting married. Moreover, women who do marry, do so at later ages. The average age for women at marriage was 23 in 1970, thirty years on this had risen to 28 years. In spite of the increasing popularity of cohabitation at younger ages, marriage is still the kind of relationship in which most couples have children. In 2000 two-thirds of first children were born within marriage, compared with nearly 100% in 1970.

Period between marriage date and birth of first child, 1970-2000

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It does seem as if the link between dates of marriage and the birth of first child is strengthening again, as about a decade ago first children were born after more than three years of marriage. However, this does not necessarily mean that the desire to start a family is the immediate cause for getting married. Today the arrival of a baby is the reason to get married for only one fifth all cases.

Andries de Jong