Family, Main, News, Studies, z118
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Report: 40% of children born outside of marriage in the US

Credit: 19melissa68/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: 19melissa68/Flickr/Creative Commons

According to a report recently released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), 4o% of child births in America are outside of marriage. Though this involves a significant number of single parents, according to this study the largest percentage involved couples who have chosen to live together versus getting married.

However, data released by Pew Research in 2017, stated that the majority of unwed births (53%) involved single parents and the remaining 47% involved those living in a common law relationship. Though it reported that single parents were the majority, it also revealed the increasing trend of people choosing to live common law and having children because in 1968, 90% of unwed births were in single-parent families and only 10% involved couples living together.

This falls in line with the growing number of people choosing to live together, which according to the US Census has increased from 14 million in 2007 to 18 million in 2016, with nearly half involving people under the age of 35. The number of people living common law has increased by 2000% since 1960.

Of course, the biggest concern is the impact that these societal changes are having on children.

Children in single parent families are clearly at a disadvantage compared to children of married couples. Several studies out of England revealed the negative impact of single parenting (this includes children of divorced families):

  • INCREASED TROUBLE WITH THE LAW: According to England’s Youth Justice Board, the chances of a children between the ages of 11 and 16 having trouble with the law increased by 25% if they came from a single-parent family. According to another study of youth crime conducted by England’s Home Office Research Development and Statistics Directorate, the chances of a boy being classified a persistent offender increased by 60% if he came from a single parent family.
  • INCREASED DRUG USAGE: Studies also show there is an increased risk of drug usage in children from single parent families. A study entitled Teenage family life, life chances, lifestyles and health noted that in single parent families 22.4% of 15-year-old boys used drugs compared to only 10.8% for boys in families made up of both biological parents. Rates for girls the same age increased from 6.5% to 8.1%. The study concluded that once accounting for other contributing factors, such as finances, children from single-parent families were 50% more likely to use drugs.
  • DECREASED SCHOOL ATTENDANCE: Children from single-parent families also had increased problems in school. A study entitled Youth People and Crime reported that boys from single-parent families were 270% more likely to skip school than those from married families. The Teenage Family Life, Life chances, lifestyles and health report also noted that boys from single-parent families were twice as likely to drop out of school by age 16 than those from families of married couples. This increase was due largely to poverty.

Though children of single parents are clearly at a disadvantage, it is marginally better for children with parents who are living together compared to children of married couples.

According to a report by the Brookings Institution by the time their children have reached the age of 12 nearly 66% of couples living together have split up compared to only 25% for married couples. Marriage is clearly a more secure family foundation for children and profoundly impacts their ability to succeed.

But aside from this, children living with common-law parents are also at a disadvantage compared to children of married parents:

  • According to the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, children living with co-habiting parents are four times as likely to suffer neglect and abuse compared to those living with married parents.
  • The National Marriage project reports that children with parents who are living together are also more likely to use drugs, experience depression and have school problems than those children whose parents are married.

Marriage rates have been in decline since 1990. While marriage seems to be falling out of fashion in our modern, progressive society, the consequences for children can be devastating.


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