All-time high for out-of-wedlock births
|by Regis Nicoll|
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 4 in 10 children are born out-of-wedlock—this is an all-time-high representing an almost fourfold increase since the 1960s. What’s up with this increase? Morehouse School of Medicine’s Dr. Yolanda Wimberly opines, “I think [having a child without being married] is more acceptable in society.” Well, yeaahh!
What is left unsaid is how this statistic is related to our changing attitudes about marriage. As J. Budziszewski once observed, the traditional understanding marriage was “a mutual and binding promise before God between one man and one woman to enter into a procreative and unitive bond with each other, exclusively, for life.”
However with the introduction of “no fault” divorce in 1969, the “promise before God” became a “contract before the State,” enabling parties to negotiate terms and terminate agreements as they saw fit. With the legalization of abortion in 1973, the growing and caring for children through the “procreative bond” soon gave way to the “mutual satisfaction” of adults.
In time marriage morphed into “a mutual and binding contract before the State between one man and one woman to enter into a unitive bond with each other for as long as mutually satisfying.” By 2001 the U.S. divorce rate doubled, fracturing one out of every two families into households mostly headed by a single-parent mother with small children.
This devolution also exacerbated another social problem. The strong marriage ethos prior to the 1960’s, meant that most pregnant women were either married or got married. But by 1992 the number of children born outside of marriage jumped from 11% to 30%. And now that rate is 37%. The tragedy is that these children and their mothers have three times the normal risk of poverty and domestic abuse—all because we began fiddling with an institution as old as humanity itself.