Kids Before Marriage? It’s Totally Normal for the Newest Generation of Parents

Regardless of your personal feelings about pregnancy outside of marriage, it’s apparently time to accept that it’s the new reality in America.

We’ve all seen anecdotal evidence of this—including all kinds of examples set by Hollywood types—but new research findings make the trend officially, statistically clear: According to a new Johns Hopkins University study using results from millennial parents, 64 percent of all mothers gave birth out of wedlock at least one time. Yes, that’s well over half. It’s approaching two thirds. So it’s safe to say, it’s a completely ordinary lifestyle across the entire category that includes the newest generation of parents—like it or not.

Drilling down a bit, the paper shows the biggest divide along the lines of education: People with four-year college degrees more typically had children later in their 20s, and most were married at that time. Women without such degrees were typically younger when they delivered, and three-quarters of those were not married at the time of at least one child’s birth.

Even more specifically, in the category of women who dropped out of high school, 87 percent had at least one birth outside of marriage. But in the category of four-year-degree holders, it was just 25 percent.

Further parsing the data, Slate points out that many of the non-wedlocked women in the study were not single, but living with partners at the time—so the kids were technically born into two-parent households. But, “the problem is that cohabiting couples don’t always last. Their relationships fare better than parents who aren’t living together at all, but frequently the mother ends up raising a child alone,” Slate notes.

The fact is, the youngest generation of parents is playing by different rules than their own parents and grandparents. And instead of debating whether or not it’s right for them to make the choices they are making with respect to their reproductive timelines, our efforts as a country are probably better spent figuring out how to channel resources to modern families—the kind of families that actually most commonly exist, not the kind of families that people with outmoded philosophies wish could still be the norm.

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Pregnancy Month by Month:  Preparing for Labor
Pregnancy Month by Month:  Preparing for Labor
Pregnancy Month by Month: Preparing for Labor

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  1. [...] The move is bold not just because a designer chose to employ a pregnant model for a high-profile runway walk. But it also makes a statement about the variety of now-ordinary ways, once considered nontraditional or even scandalous, that brides take their own walks down the aisle. (We recently covered a study of millennial parents that showed a whipping 64 percent of them have at least one baby outside of marriage.) [...]