Just in case youd forgotten about the dismal state of family life in America, a recent article in The New York Times provided a sobering reminder. Motherhood without marriage, authors Jason DeParle and Sabrine Tavernise inform us (Feb. 17), has settled deeply into middle America.
Their claim is based on statistics culled from government data by Child Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based research group, which found that in 2009, for the first time in our nations history, more than half of all children born to American women under the age of 30 were born outside the bonds of marriage. According to DeParle and Tavernise, this signals a coming generational change in the make-up of the American family unit.
Our authors dont tell us how this growing phenomenon will transform the American family, other than to say that what was once called illegitimacy is now the new normal. But by reading between the lines, one gets a pretty good idea of what to expect for the coming generation of middle Americans. Almost all of the rise in nonmarital births has occurred among couples living together, they explain. And the relationships of cohabiting couples are more than twice as likely to dissolve as the relationships of married couples. Two-thirds of couples living together split up by the time their child turned 10. In other words, cohabitation usually leads to single-parenthood. And more often than not, it is the mother who winds up being the single parent. We should expect, therefore, an increase in the incidence of single parenthood in America, and the myriad social pathologies that accompany it. What might those be, you ask?
Children born outside of marriage, write DeParle and Tavernise, face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems. Research has shown that single mothers comprise the largest group of welfare recipients. Moreover, the children of single parents are at greater risk of sexual abuse, are more prone to involvement in crime and drug abuse, and are hence more likely to face incarceration. We shouldnt be surprised, then, that a majority of prison inmates, as well as a majority of juveniles in state-run institutions, were raised in single-parent homes.
You have two options:
- Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at newoxfordreview.org AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
- Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.
If you're already a subscriber log-in here.