There is an abundance of evidence demonstrating the numerous benefits of marriage for both spouses and children of married couples. These benefits include improved physical health, mental health, positive well-being, and longer life span, just to name a few. However, the number of unwed, cohabitating couples has increased dramatically in recent decades. Many of these couples are having children out of wedlock. Additionally, the number of divorced, separated, or single women giving birth is also on the rise. This recent trend makes it necessary to take a better look at how each type of living situation affects the psychological well-being of an expectant mother, as maternal mental health has one of the biggest impacts on the well-being of the child.
Marcelo L. Urquia of the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at the Keenan Research Centre in Ontario, Canada recently conducted a study involving 6,421 pregnant women. He assessed their relationship statuses and categorized them into individual classifications of married, cohabitating, separated, divorced, or single. The non-married cohabiters were further separated into groups based on duration of cohabitation to include those with less than two years cohabitation, between three and five years or more than five years cohabitation.
Urquia found that the majority, 92%, of the women in his study lived with their partners as either married or unmarried couples. Those who were unmarried and had the shortest duration of cohabitation were at the highest risk for drug and alcohol use, intimate partner violence, and postpartum depression. As the length of cohabitation increased, the risk of these outcomes decreased. Urquia also discovered that women who had divorced or separated in the year prior to giving birth were at the greatest risk for all of these negative conditions. Single women were also at risk, but not as vulnerable as those who had recently separated from their partners. Overall, the married women, especially those who had been married for more than five years, were least likely to develop any of these problems. Urquia believes these results underscore the importance of looking at length and type of habitation when analyzing relationship issues in couples. This study also reveals which couples may be most at risk for negative outcomes during and after pregnancy, and which couples would benefit most from early interventions. “Such timely interventions may improve psychosocial well-being during and after pregnancy by minimizing marital conflict and enhancing relationships at the start of a union,” said Urquia.
Urquia, Marcelo L., Patricia J. O’Campo, and Joel G. Ray. Marital status, duration of cohabitation, and psychosocial well-being among childbearing women: A Canadian nationwide survey. American Journal of Public Health 103.2 (2013): E8-E15. Print.
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