When I see my children with their father, I can’t imagine their lives without him there on a daily basis. The bond they share is as close as theirs to me, but it’s different in many ways. Fathers provide not only a vital role in child rearing, but also in supporting and assisting mothers and in demonstrating to children how a man should treat a woman. Apparently in the U.S., fewer and fewer children are enjoying this important bond with their fathers.
The number of children being born to single mothers has risen sharply in recent years, according to The Washington Post. This trend is being attributed not to teen parents, but to women in their 20s and 30s who are choosing to have children without being married. Nearly 40% (4 of every 10 births) are now to unmarried women, up from 18% in 1980.
Some causal factors being discussed include a lower social stigma associated with unmarried motherhood, an increase in cohabitation and delaying of marriage, and an increase in financially independent and older women deciding to have children on their own (for instance after delaying having children until their career was established).
The Post cited some experts giving positive reasons more women are now single mothers, for instance in the past more were compelled to give up children for adoption or coerced into abortions, and now pregnancy to a single mother is common. Other experts said “the trend is disturbing because children who grow up without stable, two-parent families tend not to fare as well.” (Just a note: I think it’s clear there are many single moms who do an excellent job given a difficult set of circumstances, and they should be acknowledged.)
Worldwide, this trend is even more apparent, according to USA Today. In Northern European countries, marriage rates are substantially lower than in the U.S. Iceland has the highest number of out-of-wedlock births, with 6 in 10 births to unmarried women. There are some differences between the U.S. and other countries, however. “U.S. mothers are more likely to be single parents because the non-married relationship doesn’t tend to last very long,” says demographer Patrick Heuveline, so many more of these children in the U.S. are born to single mothers without fathers present. In European countries these births tend to be in two-parent cohabitations, to parents who are in a stable union but unmarried.
How do you react to these statistics? How do you think these trends will affect the next generation of Americans? Does marriage provide any value to society or is it a dying institution? Do you think fathers are vital or optional to children’s upbringing?