Well, in 2005, that was no longer true for the parents of 36% of the babies that were born. CLASP has just published a well balanced, insightful report called Out of Order? Factors Influencing the Sequence of Marriage and Childbirth Among Disadvantaged Americans
by Paula Roberts. In their announcement of the report, they say, "This brief explores the attitudinal, experiential, economic, and social contexts in which disadvantaged parents have children and decide to marry or not marry. It also discusses the public policy implications of research on this topic."
I was especially intriqued by the discussions about why this change is happening. Roberts writes, "the evolving debate about the nature of marriage occurs in the context of highly advanced reproductive technologies. These technologies allow people an unprecedented control over their reproductive choices; they allow sex and childbearing to be separated from each other in ways heretofore unheard of."
There is ample research that children do better in two parent families, but as this report demonstrates, there are also many reasons that marriage is not the best choice for women who are pregnant or parenting. And as so many women know, marriage at the time of conception does not guarentee a husband who will be there for the birth or raising of those children. Death, abandonment, violence, mental illness, separation, and divorce are also realities in women's lives.
Next week, I am one of the plenary speakers at a conference on the rights of pregnant and parenting women. It seems to me that we are still along way from assuring that every pregnancy is desired, that every pregnant women receives the medical and emotional support she needs, and that every child is wanted, supported, and loved. Surely that is common ground we can all agree on.