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Nonmarital Childbearing


Nonmarital fertility has become prevalent in many countries of the world. Due to social and cultural norms against nonmarital childbearing in developing nations, and because reliable data are not available to document rates and trends of nonmarital fertility in some cases, little is known about nonmarital childbearing in developing nations. On the other hand, among developed nations, non-marital childbearing clearly has increased dramatically between 1970 and 1999, in most cases by a factor of 3 or 4. In the United States nonmarital births increased from about 1 in 10 in 1970 to about 1 in 3 in 1999. Although 80 percent of births to U.S. teenagers are nonmarital, teenagers account for only 29 percent of all nonmarital births, whereas women aged twenty-five and older account for 34 percent of nonmarital births in the United States. Nonmarital childbearing in the United States varies across racial and ethnic groups. In 1998, Latina women had the highest nonmarital birthrate, followed by African-American and white women respectively. The postponement of marriage, reflected in declining marriage rates and increasing cohabitation, as well as broad socioeconomic changes have contributed to increases in nonmarital childbearing. At a more specific level, unstable family arrangements, the experience of physical or sexual abuse, negative neighborhood contexts, the scarcity of marital opportunities, and disadvantaged socioeconomic contexts are all key risk factors associated with nonmarital childbearing. Among adolescents in particular, parental values about sexual activity, warmth and connectedness between parents and children, and parental monitoring of children are associated with nonmarital childbearing. Adolescent nonmarital childbearing often results in reduced educational attainment and income, and less stable ongoing marital and family structures for women and children. Nonmarital childbearing also results in negative cognitive, environmental, and behavioral outcomes for children. Policies to discourage nonmarital births among women and adolescents might help arrest these trends. Increased economic opportunities for women, economic initiatives for educational attainment, and policies supporting deferred childbearing among teenagers are examples of such policies.


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Additional topics

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