Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Twentysomethings abandon marriage

By W. Bradford Wilcox writes in Slate about how women in their 20s have abandoned marriage:

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."
He goes on to theorize that a whole generation has lost confidence in marriage:
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.

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