Mental Illness as a Barrier to Marriage Among Mothers With Out-of-Wedlock Births.

July 2007

Julien O. Teitler, School of Social Work, Columbia University; Nancy E. Reichman, Department of Pediatrics, Princeton University.

Download 'NPC_working_paper_07-20-Teitler.pdf'.


This study explores how mental illness shapes transitions to marriage among unwed mothers using augmented data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study. We estimate proportional hazard models to assess the effects of mental illness on the likelihood of marriage over a five year period following a non-marital birth. Diagnosed mental illness was obtained from the survey respondents' prenatal medical records. We find that mothers with mental illness were about two thirds as likely as mothers without mental illness to marry, even after controlling for demographic characteristics, and that human capital, relationship quality, partner selection, and substance abuse explain only a small proportion of the effect of mental illness on marriage.

Marriage, Family Formation and Reproductive Issues, Health, Health Insurance, and Health Care