Archive for April, 2011

U.S. moms having kids with multiple dads: epidemic or cultural norm?

Monday, April 11th, 2011

(Ethnicmajority, Clifford Tong) Last week a study was published by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research showing one in five American moms had children with more than one birth father. This type of family structure is even more common among minority women: 59% for African American, and 35% for Hispanic mothers.

While one might think this is attributed to teenage unwed mothers having boatloads of kids before they reach voting age, the data show that this is not the case. 43% of the women who had kids with multiple fathers were married at the time they had their first child. This is indicative that many of these families are the by-product of divorce, not unwed mothers.

Although this is relatively new research and some of the results seem inconclusive, I’m ready to jump to some conclusions. I think it is pretty clear that women have generally waited longer to get married and have children, for a variety of reasons. And although divorce rates are high, children of divorce should have a better chance at a stable household given that their parents are more likely to be mature and financially viable enough to provide it. So I think this age trend is pushing the statistics down, not up.

That means that the data, and more importantly the impact on the children, is still heavily skewed toward mothers who are young, unwed, uneducated, low income, and minority. Given these characteristics, there are many geographical areas where this is the cultural norm, where having a baby is viewed as a short-term status symbol rather than the life commitment and challenge that it is.

Whatever we’re doing to educate our young people about teenage pregnancy, it’s not working. This sounds like a cultural norm that is an epidemic.

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