Growing up we all heard the classic playground song: "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage!" From a young age we received direct and not-so-direct messages that taught us about the “natural” order of boy-girl relationships that lead up to saving ourselves for sex within marriage, and in anticipation of a baby. However, social norms have changed throughout the decades, as premarital sex has become ever more common with millennials having sex outside of serious relationships.

So, what does that mean for marriages? Researchers at the University of Utah explored whether premarital sex influences a couple's likelihood of divorce. The answer: It depends.

The study, published on the Institute for Family Studies blog, found a surprising trend: Women with exactly two premarital sex partners have consistently higher divorce rates than women with three to nine sex partners.

“In short, if you’re going to have comparisons to your [future] husband, it’s best to have more than one,” said Nicholas H. Wolfinger, a professor in the University of Utah’s Department of Family and Consumer Studies and an adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology, in a statement.

Wolfinger looked at the five-year divorce rate for over 10,000 women, and took into consideration how many sexual partners the women reported having prior to the marriage. He then divided them into the three most recent waves of the National Survey of Family Growth based on the decade in which the marriage occurred, collected in 2002, 2006-2010 and 2011-2013.

Unsurprisingly, young women who wed in recent years have far more sexual experience prior to marriage than their counterparts from previous decades. Wolfinger suggests this is because premarital sex has become more acceptable.

"[I]t’s reasonable to anticipate that its negative effects on marital stability waned,” he said.

According to the Kinsey Institute, by age 21, 85 percent of men and 81 percent of women in the U.S. have had sexual intercourse. Now, comparing this to the average age of first marriage in the U.S. — 27 for women and 29 for men — most people are having sex before marriage, and they’re also marrying later.

In the 1970s, women were four times as likely to marry as virgins (21 percent) compared to the 2010s (5 percent), according to Wolfinger’s findings. There has been a notable decline in the percentage of women who get married having only had one sex partner. Over half of new brides were virgins or had only one sex partner in the late 1980s; this was true of just 28 percent of women by the 2010s.

Wolfinger found a strong correlation among the three cohorts: women who married as virgins had the lowest divorce rates by far. In the 1980s, 11 percent of virgin marriages (on the women's part) ended in divorce within five years. This decreased to eight percent in the 1990s, and then fell again to six percent in the 2000s. Similarly, women with the second lowest five-year divorce rates are those who had only one partner prior to marriage.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the highest five-year divorce rates were seen with those who had two partners.This was higher in the 1980s when these women had divorce rates of 28 percent. Surprisingly, this is substantially higher than those who had ten or more premarital sex partners with a rate of 18 percent.

However, in the 2000s, this took a surprising turn — women with ten or more premarital sex partners had the highest five-year divorce rates among those marrying in that decade at 33 percent.

Wolfinger admits: “Perhaps it is not unexpected that having many partners increases the odds of divorce.”

However, the greatest surprise is that this only holds true in recent years. Whereas, previously, women with two partners prior to marriage had the highest divorce rates.

So, what does this all mean?

Wolfinger's study has several limitations. It did not take into account the sexual behavior of men in marriages, and its effects on divorce. Rather, women's sexual behaviors were closely observed, and linked to high or low divorce rates. This can portray women’s premarital sexual behaviors as solely responsible for helping or harming a marriage.

Similarly, a 2014 study from the National Marriage Project found having multiple sex partners before marriage can lead to unhappier marriages down the line, but it’s not for the reasons you think. The researchers hypothesized having more experience can increase our awareness of alternative partners. In other words, people who’ve had a significant number of prior relationships may become satisfied more easily when not in committed relationships and less so within one.

However, it’s important to take into account those who avoid commitment may find it easier to have more sexual partners, and eventually be less happy when they settle down. So, it’s not the fact they have more partners that makes them less happy, it’s their inability to commit.

So, does a woman's number really matter?

Depends on who you ask.