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Nonmarital Childbearing

Risk Factors Associated With Nonmarital Childbearing In Developed Nations

An understanding of risk factors associated with nonmarital childbearing is vital for policy makers who are concerned with reducing rates. Childhood experiences, environmental contexts, neighborhoods, socioeconomic opportunities, family structure, parents' marital status, and parental educational and income levels are some of the common risk factors thought to be associated with nonmarital childbearing.

Risk factors for nonmarital childbearing in the United States. Research on the risk factors for nonmarital childbearing in the United States reveals that instability in family living arrangements due to parents' divorce, remarriage, job loss, and frequent migration is associated with children's nonmarital childbearing later in life. In addition, children in single parent homes who experience poverty and inadequacy of resources face a higher likelihood of being involved in nonmarital fertility. Further, individuals who suffer physical or sexual abuse as children are more likely to have nonmarital births in their adolescent or early adult years (Burton 1995).

Nonmarital fertility is also influenced by neighborhood contexts. Women in neighborhoods with a higher concentration of public assistance recipients experience higher levels of nonmarital fertility (Hill and O' Neill 1993), possibly because the receipt of public assistance is related to poverty, the absence of positive role models, and a lack of community resources (Duncan 1995).

Nonmarital fertility is also influenced by marital opportunities. Marriage rates are often lower among women who live in areas with relatively fewer numbers of employed men (South and Lloyd 1992). In addition, marriage and nonmarital fertility rates are affected by the economic position of men and their ability to support a family (Duncan 1995).

Research on adolescents suggests that the absence of social and economic opportunities, along with disadvantaged socioeconomic contexts, often leads to teenage pregnancy and childbirth (Alan Guttmacher Institute 1994). Adolescents who grow up in resource-deprived neighborhoods, those who lack positive role models in their families and neighborhoods, and those whose parents have lower educational and income levels are more likely to engage in early sexual intercourse and nonmarital childbearing (Brooks-Gunn et al. 1993; Duncan 1995). Other risk factors associated with the early onset of sexual activity and nonmarital fertility in adolescents include: early onset of puberty (Morris 1992), being African-American (Brewster 1994), and exhibiting psychosocial deviance (Costa et al. 1995). Research also indicates that warmth, connectedness, and communication between parents and children, parental monitoring and supervision of children, and parents' values against sexual intercourse or unprotected inter-course by their children are related to a reduction in the risk of adolescent pregnancy (Miller, Benson, and Galbraith 2001). In addition, teenagers who perform poorly at school, have low future aspirations, and who belong to disadvantaged families and communities face a higher risk of becoming sexually active at a younger age and of experiencing nonmarital childbearing (Miller 1995). Female adolescents who have traditional views about gender roles and family, and those with low self-esteem face a higher possibility of being involved in nonmarital childbearing (Plotnick 1992).

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodNonmarital Childbearing - Nonmarital Childbearing In Developing Nations, Nonmarital Childbearing In Developed Nations, Risk Factors Associated With Nonmarital Childbearing In Developed Nations