So happy together … examining the association between relationship happiness, socio-economic status, and family transitions in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2022


The increases in cohabitation and in childbearing within cohabitation raise questions about who marries. Most studies have found that childbearing within cohabitation is associated with disadvantage; here, we examine the role of relationship happiness and whether it helps to explain this association. Using the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2009–17), our competing risk hazard models follow respondents as they transition: (1) from cohabitation into marriage or childbearing; and (2) from marriage or cohabitation into childbearing. We find that marriage risks are highest among individuals who are happiest with their relationship. On average, the association between relationship quality and childbearing operates through marriage: the happiest individuals marry, and those who marry have children. While higher socio-economic status is weakly associated with marriage, conception, and separation, the associations do not differ by relationship happiness. The findings indicate that overall, relationship happiness appears to be most salient for transitions into marriage.

Published in

Population Studies

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 76 , p.447 -464






Open Access

© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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