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Why are so many twentysomethings having children before getting married?

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Why are so many twentysomethings having children before getting married?

The reality is that children born to unmarried twentysomething parents are three times more likely to grow up with a disorienting carousel of adults coming and going in the home, compared to children born to married parents. This kind of carousel, as sociologist Andrew Cherlin notes in his book The Marriage-Go-Round, is associated with higher rates of teen pregnancy, behavioral problems in school, and substance abuse. By contrast, "stable, low-conflict families with two biological or adoptive parents provide better environments for children, on average, than do other living arrangements."

" In fact, twentysomething women now have the majority of children outside of marriage, which-given that 30 is the new 20-makes them the new teen moms."

Full article follows.

Tie the Knot

By |Posted Monday, March 25, 2013, at 5:45 AM


A single mother at the  Rocky Mountain Youth Clinic for uninsured parents on July 28, 2009 in Aurora, Colorado.
Nearly half of babies born in the U.S. to twentysomething women have unmarried parents.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The picture of the twentysomething years painted by the pop culture-think Girls or The Mindy Project-suggests that young adults use their 20s as a kind of "odyssey years" to bridge adolescence and adulthood. Judging by Hannah, Adam, and Mindy, the 20s are about getting educated and established at work, enjoying drinks and coffee with friends, trying your hand at relationships, all before the press of adult responsibilities sets in.

This picture is largely accurate for college-educated young adults as we show in our new report, "Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America," and it's a picture that ends up relatively rosy, even if the 20s have difficult moments. These highly educated adults have embraced a "capstone" model of marriage that typically leads them to put off marriage until they have had a chance to establish themselves professionally, personally, and relationship-wise. This capstone model is paying big dividends to the college-educated: Their divorce rate is low, and their income is high. We find, for instance, that college-educated women who postpone marriage to their 30s earn about $10,000 more than their college-educated sisters who marry in their mid-20s.  

130322_XX_Fig7

Courtesy of Brandon Wooten/The "Knot Yet" report

But one major and more dystopian feature of actual contemporary twentysomething life is conspicuously absent from small-screen depictions: parenthood. Hard as it might be for Hannah and Mindy-and their viewers-to imagine, most American women without college degrees have their first child in their 20s. These young women and their partners-who make up about two-thirds of twentysomething adults in the United States-are logging more time at the diaper aisle of the local supermarket than at the local bar.

 

This would not be such a big deal except for the fact that many of these twentysomethings are drifting into parenthood, becoming moms and dads with partners they don't think are fit to marry or at least ready to marry.  For instance, almost 1 in 2 babies-47 percent, to be precise-born to twentysomething women are now born to unmarried parents. In fact, twentysomething women now have the majority of children outside of marriage, which-given that 30 is the new 20-makes them the new teen moms.

The reality is that children born to unmarried twentysomething parents are three times more likely to grow up with a disorienting carousel of adults coming and going in the home, compared to children born to married parents. This kind of carousel, as sociologist Andrew Cherlin notes in his book The Marriage-Go-Round, is associated with higher rates of teen pregnancy, behavioral problems in school, and substance abuse. By contrast, "stable, low-conflict families with two biological or adoptive parents provide better environments for children, on average, than do other living arrangements."

130322_XX_Fig3

Courtesy of Brandon Wooten/The "Knot Yet" report

How did twentysomethings become the new teen moms? Progressives stress economics as a cause, conservatives stress culture, but both are a factor. Among college-educated couples who have access to stable, high-paying, and meaningful work, only 12 percent have their first child before marriage. By and large, college-educated women and men don't want to derail their professional and economic prospects by having a baby before they have established a strong economic foundation for themselves and their future family.

But 58 percent of women who have a high-school degree or some college-women we call "middle Americans" and who make up a majority of young adult women-are now having their first child outside of marriage-a rapid and quite recent development. (Among women without a high-school degree, 83 percent do.) The biggest economic issue is that men without college degrees are less likely to hold the kind of stable, decent-paying jobs that will secure their financial future. Chris, 22, a welder in Ohio interviewed for the Love and Marriage in Middle America project at the Institute for American Values, said his recent stint of unemployment "drove the final nail in the coffin" of his relationship with a young woman he was hoping to marry. "[I] was depressed; I was bored out of my mind-no income, not able to do anything. It basically was just like hell," he said.

Two cultural factors are also in play here. The rise of the "capstone" model of marriage is one such factor, as Cherlin has noted. All Americans, not just the college educated-watch the same TV shows and movies and pick up the idea that adults have to have all their ducks in a row-a middle-class lifestyle, a soul mate relationship-before they settle down.  This model sets a high bar for marriage and minimizes marriage's classic connection to parenthood. So large numbers of less-educated twentysomethings who view the capstone model as unattainable end up having the child before the marriage.

Second, as Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas point out in Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage, many young adults have been scarred by the divorce revolution-which hit poor and middle American communities harder than upper- and middle-class communities-and have become gun-shy about marriage. They have seen too many friends and family divorce to have the trust required to move forward with a wedding. So, living amid a climate characterized by a trust deficit, they often choose, or drift "unintentionally" into, parenthood with partners who are not marriageable or who seem good but to whom they are not yet ready to marry.  

Melissa, a 31-year-old single mother, had this to say about why she has never married any of her boyfriends: "I just never felt that anyone's as loyal to me as I am to them," she said. "Even when I feel like I'm in a good relationship, there'll be little things that they'll do that will make me start wondering, ‘Do they really have my back?' ", according to the Love and Marriage in Middle America project, a study of Middle American relationships in a small town in Ohio. What's striking about Melissa's comment-which is all too representative-is that it's not just the bad guys who give her pause about marriage; it's also the good guys. She just seems to harbor a general suspicion about the possibility of lifelong love and the whole institution of marriage.

 

So what can be done to bring women like Melissa and the "good guys" back together? Progressives are right to point to the importance of shoring up the economic foundations of family life in middle America. New infrastructure projects, better vocational training, and the elimination of the marriage penalties built into many of the nation's public policies serving lower-income Americans are all steps that could help to boost the fragile foundations of middle American families. President Obama was right to call in his State of the Unions address for measures "to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples."

But conservatives are also right in calling for a new ethic of parental responsibility that is equally binding on all Americans and all parents, regardless of their income, education, or gender. We need a national campaign-like we have had around teen pregnancy-encompassing public, civic, and pop-cultural efforts (yes, Lena Dunham should get in on the action) to encourage twentysomethings to wait until they have a plan and a partner who will enable them to give their children the life and family they deserve. Isabel Sawhill, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, says young adults need to treat parenthood, not marriage, as the capstone.

This is because becoming a parent, for both mothers and fathers, is a big deal, arguably a bigger deal than getting married. Young adults owe it to their children to try to bring them into a home with two loving parents who are ready to support them and one another in the exhausting, exhilarating, and quotidian adventure that is parenthood. And, at least in the United States, that's most likely to happen within marriage.

The bottom line is this: Today's twentysomethings need to approach parenthood with the same seriousness that they approach marriage. For some, this will mean postponing parenthood into the later 20s or 30s, after their ducks are all in row. But for others, this will mean marrying earlier to someone with whom they are in a "good relationship." But either way, contemporary young adults need to be more intentional about sequencing the baby carriage after marriage, just as the country needs to be more intentional about stabilizing the fragile foundations of family life in poor and middle American communities across the United States.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/03/marry_in_your_twenties.html

by on Apr. 18, 2013 at 11:11 PM
Replies (41-50):
nomadbrat83
by Member on Apr. 19, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Idk. We were married for almost 2 years when our oldest was born. I was almost 24 years old at that point but had my BA at 19 years old and had a good career.
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MsDenuninani
by Silver Member on Apr. 19, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Children need stability.

Marriage provides it.

That's why it's important.

I'm not pretending it's a guarantee; I'm not saying that there is only one way to live your life or have a family.  But there's no getting around the fact that stable relationships beget healthier children, and marriage brings stability to relationships.

x_Starr_x
by Bronze Member on Apr. 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Hey grandma go crawl back under your rock ive never seen such a ignorant unfactual post such as your nonscense post.

Quoting lga1965:

 Based on my family and friends through the years  and our experiences....I would say that teens and girls in their twenties who have babies and no marriage have been badly raised or ignored by their parents and have nothing else in their lives but having sex and getting pregnant. It is so depressing and disturbing. College and a career and then a marriage to a GOOD man is essential.Parents need to communicate with their kids starting at a young age and make them aware of these truths.


My 16 year old granddaughters who have been carefully and lovingly raised by their parents have decided to wait until they have their college degrees to even think about a relationship and marriage and then wait to have children until they have been married for at least three years. This is not unusual among their friends who have been well raised too.


When I was a teen, I was too shy to kiss a guy and sex to me was something you waited for until you were in love, old enough and with the man you were going to marry...and not just something to do when you want to keep a guy interested.There were too many other things in my life ,....didn't have time to go with a guy and get involved.


Kids who are close to their parents and have families who TALK... will NOT have a baby when they are teens. They talk about morals, self respect, self control and reproduction, contraception. It is such a big mistake to ignore kids and let them go nuts and get pregnant.


See the difference?

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LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Apr. 19, 2013 at 12:02 PM
1 mom liked this

Because they're not aware of the legal distinctions between married and not married.

Because they're children of fractured families, so they don't hold stable family models in high esteem.

Because there is little cultural shame involved in parenting outside of wedlock.

Because may believe it's 'just a piece of paper' and it feels stupid to go along with a performance that doesn't matter to whether or not anyone stays together...

LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Apr. 19, 2013 at 12:03 PM

The vast majority of these 20-somethings are children of divorce. You will not convince them of that:

Quoting MsDenuninani:

Children need stability.

Marriage provides it.

That's why it's important.

I'm not pretending it's a guarantee; I'm not saying that there is only one way to live your life or have a family.  But there's no getting around the fact that stable relationships beget healthier children, and marriage brings stability to relationships.


MsDenuninani
by Silver Member on Apr. 19, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Quoting LindaClement:

The vast majority of these 20-somethings are children of divorce. You will not convince them of that:

Quoting MsDenuninani:

Children need stability.

Marriage provides it.

That's why it's important.

I'm not pretending it's a guarantee; I'm not saying that there is only one way to live your life or have a family.  But there's no getting around the fact that stable relationships beget healthier children, and marriage brings stability to relationships.



I am a child of divorce, as was most of my peers. It made us wary of marriage -- but it didn't change the relationship we had of being married and having children. For us, deciding not to get married meant deciding not to have children; it was the desire to have children that meant, nonetheless, that we would still marry. That's the difference, I think. (Personally, I don't think the reasons are cultural; I think they're economic.)
LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Apr. 19, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Yes, but that's just you and your friends.

Marriages --and divorces, and having kids-- run in communities. If you don't know people who are getting married, or who got married, you're unlikely to bother.

Quoting MsDenuninani:


Quoting LindaClement:

The vast majority of these 20-somethings are children of divorce. You will not convince them of that:

Quoting MsDenuninani:

Children need stability.

Marriage provides it.

That's why it's important.

I'm not pretending it's a guarantee; I'm not saying that there is only one way to live your life or have a family.  But there's no getting around the fact that stable relationships beget healthier children, and marriage brings stability to relationships.



I am a child of divorce, as was most of my peers. It made us wary of marriage -- but it didn't change the relationship we had of being married and having children. For us, deciding not to get married meant deciding not to have children; it was the desire to have children that meant, nonetheless, that we would still marry. That's the difference, I think. (Personally, I don't think the reasons are cultural; I think they're economic.)


momto3B
by Bronze Member on Apr. 19, 2013 at 12:30 PM

It must depend on where one lives. The kids that graduate high school here and go to college do not go on to become 20 something single parents. I live in a pretty liberal part of CT where divorces certainly happen but unwed mom's and baby Daddy's are not common place. NYC is not filled with 20 educated 20 something unwed mom's either. 

As for 20 something's being the new teen parents. That is a great deal of nonsense. 

OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Apr. 19, 2013 at 12:39 PM

 20 somethings the new teen moms..... LMAO!  Sure, there are exceptions, but most do not fit this mold.

I do feel people need to feel that their partner is worthy of being a life long partner before they have children, whether they decide to marry or not. 

I see so many posts here on CM that make me shake my head when the women are confused over whether they see their partner as someone they would marry, yet want more children with the same said partner.  It just doesn't make sense to me. 

MsDenuninani
by Silver Member on Apr. 19, 2013 at 12:42 PM

It does run in communities -- but that doesn't explain why the communities of not-getting-marrieds are growing. Right now, you are more likely to know people who are not bothering to get married than you did 20 years ago. 

The rate of people not getting married, yet still having kids, is changing, and I don't think it's just because they grew up with divorced parents. I strongly suspect there are other factors in play.

Quoting LindaClement:

Yes, but that's just you and your friends.

Marriages --and divorces, and having kids-- run in communities. If you don't know people who are getting married, or who got married, you're unlikely to bother.

Quoting MsDenuninani:


Quoting LindaClement:

The vast majority of these 20-somethings are children of divorce. You will not convince them of that:

Quoting MsDenuninani:

Children need stability.

Marriage provides it.

That's why it's important.

I'm not pretending it's a guarantee; I'm not saying that there is only one way to live your life or have a family.  But there's no getting around the fact that stable relationships beget healthier children, and marriage brings stability to relationships.



I am a child of divorce, as was most of my peers. It made us wary of marriage -- but it didn't change the relationship we had of being married and having children. For us, deciding not to get married meant deciding not to have children; it was the desire to have children that meant, nonetheless, that we would still marry. That's the difference, I think. (Personally, I don't think the reasons are cultural; I think they're economic.)



 

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