Brett Smith for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A new study of Canadian women, which can be found in the latest edition of American Journal of Public Health, bodes well for the institution of marriage.
Three researchers from St. Michael´s Hospital in Toronto have found that childbearing women who are married suffer less domestic abuse, substance abuse or post-partum depression around the time of their pregnancy than women who are living with a partner or those who do not have a partner.
The study also revealed interesting details about the length of time a couple lives together, with long time periods of cohabitation translating into better outcomes.
“What is new in this study is that for the first time we looked at the duration of unmarried cohabitation and found the shorter the cohabitation, the more likely women were to suffer intimate-partner violence, substance abuse or post-partum depression around the time of conception, pregnancy and delivery,” said co-author Marcelo Urquia, an epidemiologist at the hospital´s Centre for Research on Inner City Health.
“We did not see that pattern among married women, who experienced less psychosocial problems regardless of the length of time they lived together with their spouses,” he added.
According to the study, unmarried women who had lived with their partner for less than two years showed an increased risk for experiencing at least one of the three problems. However, that level of risk decreased the longer the couple lived together.
The study was based on data from the nationwide 2006—2007 Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey, which examined a cross-section of more than 6400 childbearing women. The participants were categorized into cohabiting women, who were married, or non-married women living with a partner and non-cohabiters, who were single, divorced, or separated women. The cohabiting women were also categorized according to the duration of cohabitation: two, three to five, or over five years.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found 10.6 percent of women suffered partner abuse, substance abuse, or post-partum depression. They also found 20 percent of unwed women who were cohabitating suffered from at least one of the three pre-determined psychosocial conditions. Single women fared the worst statistically, with 35 percent suffering at least one of the conditions and 67 percent for those women who separated or divorced in the year before birth of the child.
Urquia said the data didn´t allow for a determination of whether either type of abuse was the cause for the separation or the result.
He also noted that understanding the differences among the various categories of child-bearing women is becoming more important as the number of children born outside of wedlock has increased. He cited previous research that said 30 percent of children in Canada are born to unwed couples, up from 9 percent in 1971. In some European countries, babies born out of wedlock each year are beginning to outnumber those born to married couples.
In their conclusion, the researcher suggested the results of their study could be used to advise future research or policies pertaining to at-risk women.