Record Number of Single Moms
On September 8, the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics released its 2003 birth data report, which for many has been cause for great celebration. But, while the director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy hailed the 33 percent decline in teen births over the past 12 years as “a huge American success story” (if you could call 35 percent of girls in the U.S. getting pregnant at least once before age 20 a success), the 4 percent overall increase in births to unwed women in just one year provides a little more realistic perspective.
Births to unmarried women in the United States increased to a record 1.4 million in 2003—a staggering 34.6 percent of all births—also a new record.
An analyst at the Family Research Council pointed to the obvious reason for the higher unwed birthrates being that unmarried women are relying too much on contraceptives rather than abstinence. But the fact that teen birthrates (not to be confused with teen sexual activity), by contrast, have declined—itself a reflection of the increasingly widespread availability of contraception—indicates that it is more than a matter of ineffective use of contraceptives.
The fact is, more and more women are simply choosing to reproduce out of wedlock. No longer is the stigma attached to illegitimacy. Gone are the days when the preferred family model was a husband and wife with children. A Time/cnn poll taken some years ago found that fully 61 percent of single women ages 18 to 49 said they would consider rearing a child on their own. More and more women are choosing either to be single parents or to just not get married, rather opting for the more flexible “family” arrangement of just living together.
As people do what seems right to them, the wellbeing of future generations is ignored. The lifestyle choices of today have resulted in over 3 million children in the U.S. living with an unmarried parent and the parent’s cohabiting partner. About 20 million children live in single-parent households. And with 1,415,995 American children born to unwed mothers in 2003, and 1,365,966 the year before that, these overall numbers are certain to mushroom.
Numerous studies over the years clearly show that what God says in His Word is true: To have the best chance of success in life, a child needs a stable home life, with two married, committed parents. “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12). Ideally, a child needs a mother and a father who are honorable in order to fulfill this commandment and reap the benefits. Anything less than that, while the situation can be made to work if necessary, is simply less than the ideal.
The results of children being raised by single parents or unmarried partners abound: Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse and to engage in criminal behavior than are their peers who live with their married parents (www .fatherhood.org). Not to mention that children who grow up without the example provided by a stable, two-parent home have a much greater chance of perpetuating the debilitating cycle themselves.
Despite the evident failure of modern “family” models, it seems the majority still believe that marriage isn’t necessary for raising children. Since 1960, the marriage rate has plunged 43 percent. Less than a quarter of U.S. households are made up of married couples with children.
As students of history are well aware, as goes the family, so goes the nation. As family becomes a broken institution in Western society, we cannot expect our nations to be strong.
For more on just how important the marriage institution is—and its overlooked spiritual purpose—request Herbert W. Armstrong’s Why Marriage! Soon Obsolete?