Married couples who have twins are more likely to divorce

Research Activities October 2011, No. 374

Past research has shown that women who give birth to twins have higher rates of postpartum depression and that counseling for depression may be warranted. But a new study suggests that counseling should also address marital discord. That's because women who give birth to twins are also more likely to divorce than mothers who give birth to just one baby.

Using 1980 U.S. census data, researchers found that the 6,224 first-time mothers who gave birth to twins had a 13.7 percent absolute risk of divorce compared with a 12.7 percent risk for first-timers who had just one baby. Women who had twins and who gave birth or married later, were white, or had some college education were less likely to divorce. Twin-bearing mothers who did not attend college had a 14.9 percent risk of divorce compared with a 13.3 percent risk for twin-bearing moms who had some college education.

The authors posit several explanations for the higher divorce rate for mothers who have twins. First, twins come with heightened emotional and time obligations that can stress parents. In fact, this study finds that couples were more likely to divorce once their twins were between 8 and 18 years old. This delay may indicate that couples experience more stress as their twins age or delay their breakups until they believe their twins are old enough to deal with divorce. Additionally, divorces were more likely to occur when the couple had at least one girl twin.

The authors suggest that financial stresses may be at play in these divorces because girls tend to be more expensive, with some studies indicating an annual additional cost of $1,000 for girls. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00046).

See "Association between the birth of twins and parental divorce," by Anupam B. Jena, M.D., Ph.D., Dana P. Goldman, Ph.D., and Geoffrey Joyce, Ph.D., in the April 2011 Obstetrics and Gynecology, 117(4), pp. 892-897.

Current as of October 2011
Internet Citation: Married couples who have twins are more likely to divorce: Research Activities October 2011, No. 374. October 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/oct11/1011RA19.html