Trends in Marriage Rates—Do Teen Girls Need a Reality Check on Love & Marriage?

Do teenage girls have a skewed view of reality when it comes to guys, lasting love and marriage? Recent data from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy seem to suggest so. Do we talk about this enough with our daughters, nieces or friends? It looks like our nation’s teens need more of a reality check about their future love lives.

Teen pregnancy is not a new issue, nor is unwed pregnancy. But marriage rates for this group are changing dramatically. The breakup of Bristol Palin and her fiancé Levi Johnston is very typical of what most unwed teens are facing. What do teens hope for and expect when they become pregnant? How does that differ from the reality of what usually happens? Among teens who do marry, what are the odds they’ll stay together?

Here are some facts that the National Campaign just reported:

  • At the time of their child’s birth, more than half of unmarried teen mothers say they are either “certain” or chances are “good” they will marry the biological father of the child. However, 8 out of 10 fathers don’t ever marry the teen mother of their child.
  • Despite high expectations of marriage, fewer than 8% of teen mothers marry their baby’s father within one year of the birth of their child.
  • Teenagers who have a non-marital birth are also significantly less likely to be married by the age of 35 than those who do not have babies as teens.
  • Marriage among teens is rare—in 2002 only 2.5% of teens had ever been married, compared to 11% in 1975.
  • As recently as 1980, the majority of teen births (52%) were marital births. By 2002, only 20% of teen births occurred within marriage.
  • Teen marriages are twice as likely to fail as marriages in which the woman is at least 25 years old.
  • It is also the case that most single mothers of all ages who have a child as a result of an unplanned pregnancy remain single and most cohabitating mothers either continue cohabitating or break up with their partner.

“Marriage and birth patterns among teens have changed over time, shifting from a general trend of marrying before pregnancy, to marrying as a result of pregnancy, to becoming pregnant and not marrying,” said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “Even though many unmarried teen mothers have high expectations for eventually marrying the father of their child, few ever do.”

According to this data, teen girls may have a fairy tale view of their futures with their boyfriends, which ends up to be far from reality. Whatever your views on teenage sexuality, teenage pregnancy or even marriage, the ones most at risk as a result of these trends are the resulting children, who are shown to thrive best in an intact family. (Previous posts detail lower poverty rates, better health outcomes, etc.) As a society, we all bear the responsibility of helping shape the next generation. While it may not be our legal responsibility to help care for the precious children who result from teen pregnancies, not doing so will only exacerbate problems for the following generation, financially and morally. These children will grow up to be your next door neighbors and possibly your children’s spouses.

How are you communicating your values to the next generation? How are you reaching out to help young mothers trying to care for children alone? How are you raising up the next generation of young men to care for and love their families? How can you use your life experience to help educate others?

Source: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

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