Married couples benefit slightly from the occasional ‘date night’, but overall going out as a couple has little effect on the likelihood of the relationship breaking down.
Research for the Marriage Foundation used information from the parents of nearly 10,000 children born across the UK in 2000-01 who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study. They examined mothers’ reports of outings with their partners when their children were 9 months old, and related it to whether the couples were still together when the children were aged 11.
Harry Benson, a researcher at the Foundation and Steve McKay, professor of social research at the University of Lincoln, considered both couples who were married and those who were cohabitating.
Date nights had little impact on the likelihood of staying together, once the couples’ age, education and relationship quality were taken into account. Couples who ‘hardly ever’ went out when their child was a baby were no more likely to stay together than those who went out weekly or more often. There did seem to be a small effect when couples out went out monthly or less often – but this was true only among couples who were married, not among those cohabiting. The researchers concluded that ‘going out more often does not help couples stay together.’
Other factors were more strongly linked to the likelihood of staying together. Teenage mothers were twice as likely as mothers in their 20s to have split up with their partners by the time their children were 11 years old. Mothers in their 30s had 35 per cent lower odds of splitting up compared to 20-something mothers, and those in their 40s had 51 per cent less chance.
Couples who were married were more likely to stay together than couples who were cohabitating, even when taking age, education and relationship quality into account.
Mothers educated to a degree level were 49 per cent less likely to split up with their partners than those who achieved good grades at GCSE, but did not have any other qualifications. Other credentials, such as diplomas or A-levels, offered no significant advantage or disadvantage.
The mothers also answered a series of questions about the quality of their relationships, including whether they agreed with the statement ‘my partner is sensitive and aware of my needs’. Mothers who strongly agreed were 56 per cent less likely to break up with their partners than those who neither agreed nor disagreed. However, those who strongly disagreed with the statement were 87 per cent more likely to split up.
The Marriage Foundation is a charity with the aim of ‘more people forming healthy stable relationships and fewer relationships breaking down’.
Read the full paper
‘Date nights strengthen marriage’ by Harry Benson and Steve McKay was published by the Marriage Foundation in September 2016.