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Out of Wed-lock Births on the Increase, originally published May 2009

Updated: Jul 19, 2019

I live on-line. Several times a day, I open my default home page, to check on the stock market and to just stay abreast of current world events. A few weeks ago an article listed in the ‘Latest News’ segment of the page caught my eye. The article was titled “Out-of-wedlock births hit record high’. ‘Wow’, I thought. This can’t be good news.

I authored a book titled “Papa Was A Rolling Stone: A Daughter’s Journey to Forgiveness” that examines some of the factors related to father absence and the outcomes for children especially in urban areas where out-of-wed-lock birth rates are higher than the national average. When I saw this article title, I was immediately concerned.

The article says nearly 40 percent of babies born in the United States in 2007 were delivered by unwed mothers, according to data released last month by the National Center for Health Statistics. The 1.7 million out-of-wedlock births, of 4.3 million total births, marked a more than 25 percent jump from five years before. For the second year in a row, the teen pregnancy rate increased after a 14-year decline.  Looking closely at the data prepared by the NCHS, it is apparent that the most significant increases in the rate of out-of-wedlock births are among black women, followed closely by American Indian and Latino women.  Conspicuously lower are the increased rates for White and Asian women, both generally middle to upper class.

The article speaks to the erosion of the stigma of out-of-wedlock births and the acceptance thereof. A black woman, L. Henry, 28, notes that neither she nor the women in her family before her would have known of the stigma. Her parents never married and her grandmother only had a wedding when she was in her 60s. She indicates that when she and her boyfriend had their son, two years ago, there was no pressure to race down the aisle.  “Culturally speaking”, she says, “taking vows wasn’t expected. Do we want to spend that money on a wedding or a house? … I guess it’s about priorities. I was never one of those girls that dreamed about the wedding dress.”

Something is wrong with this picture……

Remember the Washington Post article written by Joy Jones titled “Marriage Is for White People”? Ms. Jones shares her experience and discussion with a group of six-grade boys at an elementary school in Southeast Washington DC. After a discussion about the merits of fatherhood and the opportunity to invite couples into the classroom to talk about being married and rearing children, one student replied “Oh, no,” We’re not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers”. Another boy, as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth said “Marriage is for white people.”

Something is wrong with this picture…….

Is marriage really for White people? Are we as African American’s ‘culturally’ allergic to marriage vows?  The picture is this. There is a link between out-of-wedlock births and poverty. There is a link between out-of-wedlock births and father absence and there is absolutely a link between poverty and father absence. The statistics are very clear. In the city of Detroit, and in other large urban areas, 70 percent of children are born to single mothers; more than half of these children will never know their fathers. More than half of these children will live in poverty and potentially go on to believe that culturally speaking “taking vows is not expected” and will repeat the cycle.  Anyone, especially an African American female, who thinks that culturally “taking vows is not expected” is asleep at the wheel.

Children absolutely need the love and attention of two involved parents who are hopefully married. The statistics also are very clear that unmarried fathers traditionally are not as involved as fathers who are married and in the home. There are plenty of outstanding unmarried fathers who live their ‘father role’ responsibly and more importantly with love and commitment, but they are far too often the exception and not the rule. At the end of the day, our children pay the price. Our children grow to believe that fathering children outside of marriage is the norm because it is what they see.

We have a responsibility to behave and conduct our lives in a way that provides for the long-term emotional growth and development of our children. They are watching us.

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