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Perfect Marital Bliss Passes 3 Years for Unwed Parents

Update Date: Jul 02, 2014 11:43 AM EDT

The best time for unwed parents to get married is before the child turns three, according to new research.

Researchers at Duke University found that the best window of opportunity for getting married among unwed parents is before their child turns three.

Recent statistics reveal that marriage rates vary greatly by race, with more black mothers getting hitched significantly later than those of other races or ethnicities.

Lead author Christina Gibson-Davis and her team from Duke University have dubbed this first three-year period after birth the "magic moment," for single parents.

"It turns out the 'magic moment' lasts longer than conventional wisdom has held," said Gibson-Davis, who teaches sociology at Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy and is a faculty fellow of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. "And for some subgroups, that moment lasts even longer."

The findings revealed that most marriages among African-American mothers happen after their children turn three. The good news is that 64 percent of children out of wedlock also get to see their mothers get married. However, nearly half of post-conception marriages end in divorce, and the rate is significantly higher among African-American women.

"These marriages are fragile," Gibson-Davis said. "If you think that stable marriage is beneficial for kids, very few kids born out of wedlock are experiencing that."

However, divorce rates somewhat decline when mothers marry their child's biological father, with 38 percent of post-conception marriages ending in divorce.

The study also revealed that 54 percent of marriages to a stepfather also ended within a decade. This statistic was similar between ethnicities, according to researchers.

The latest study involved 5,255 American children who were born to unwed parents.

The findings are published in the journal Demography.

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