Mothers' Repartnering after a Nonmarital Birth

Soc Forces. 2012;90(3):817-841. doi: 10.1093/sf/sos005. Epub 2012 Mar 29.


This paper examines the prevalence, predictors and outcomes of unmarried mothers' repartnering patterns following a nonmarital birth. Results indicate that, within five years after a birth, approximately two-thirds of unmarried mothers ended their relationship with the focal child's biological father, and over half of these mothers entered new partnerships. Among those who repartnered, 60 percent of mothers formed unions with men with higher economic capabilities than their former partners, 20 percent formed unions with men with similar capabilities, and 20 percent formed unions with men with lower capabilities. This pattern holds for both nonresidential and coresidential unions. Our findings are consistent with marriage market, learning, and evolutionary biology theories about union formation, and they provide support for qualitative evidence that unmarried mothers have high standards for new partners. While many mothers are able to successfully find new partners with better economic capabilities, many other mothers remain unpartnered, likely due (at least in part) to the limited pool of potential partners with relatively high levels of economic capabilities.