Volume 49 - Article 23 | Pages 601–634  

Do couples who use fertility treatments divorce more? Evidence from the US National Survey of Family Growth

By Anna Barbuscia, Maria Sironi


Background: Undertaking fertility treatment is a stressful process and may lead to couple instability, but high levels of couple satisfaction have usually been observed during or just after treatment. However, the evidence on divorce is scarce.

Objective: We investigated the association between the use of a wide range of fertility treatments and marital dissolution in a representative sample of American women in their first marriage.

Methods: We applied discrete-time event history analysis to data from the US National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), collected from 2002 through 2013‒2015, to compare divorce rates among women who experienced successful treatments or unsuccessful treatments and a natural birth or no birth within the marriage (N = 13,784).

Results: Women who used fertility treatments had a lower risk of divorce up to 20 years after the marriage, compared to the other groups. The probability was especially low when the treatment was successful, but women who did not conceive after the treatment also showed a lower risk of divorce.

Conclusions: We found evidence that undertaking fertility treatment is associated with a lower risk of divorce, suggesting that it might strengthen couples’ relationships. The sociodemographic characteristics of couples undertaking treatment partly explained the association, but we were not able to control for the quality of the relationship before the treatment, which is likely to play a role.

Contribution: Our study contributes to knowledge about the consequences of fertility treatment by comparing the long-term risk of divorce of women who have experienced successful and unsuccessful treatments, childless women, and those who have had a natural birth. Furthermore, it is the first to examine this in the US context.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

The changing pattern of cohabitation: A sequence analysis approach
Volume 40 - Article 42

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Between money and intimacy: Brideprice, marriage, and women’s position in contemporary China
Volume 50 - Article 46    | Keywords: brideprice, China, divorce, family, family law, gender inequalities, marriage

Separation as an accelerator of housing inequalities: Parents’ and children’s post-separation housing careers in Sweden
Volume 49 - Article 4    | Keywords: divorce, family, housing, income inequality, neighborhood, parental separation, residential mobility, stratification

Introduction to the Special Collection on The new roles of women and men and implications for families and societies
Volume 48 - Article 29    | Keywords: divorce, economic uncertainties, fertility, gender equality, well-being, women's employment

Family inequality: On the changing educational gradient of family patterns in Western Germany
Volume 48 - Article 20    | Keywords: census data, descriptive analysis, divorce, educational inequality, family, Germany, marriage, partnership, time, trends

Geographical distance between child and parent after a union dissolution in Sweden, 1974–2011
Volume 48 - Article 17    | Keywords: child custody, divorce, geographical distance, living arrangements, postdivorce parenting