Over the last several decades, it’s no secret that marriage has changed. For instance, people are waiting until later in life to get married. The median age for marriage in the 1950s was 23 for men and 20 for women. In 2004, it rose to 27 for men and 26 for women. Now, fewer and fewer people are getting married at all.
Even though people are unmarried, whether they never got married in the first place or they got divorced, they are still having children. In America, there are 16.6 million unmarried parents. This is a huge jump from just four million unmarried parents in 1968.
According to an analysis from the Pew Research Center, 13% of children lived with unmarried parents back in 1968. Now, that number has jumped up to 35% of children that are living with unmarried or cohabitating parents as of 2017.
“The share of children who will ever experience life with an unmarried parent is likely considerably higher, given how fluid U.S. families have become. One estimate suggests that by the time they turn 9, more than 20 percent of U.S. children born to a married couple and over 50 percent of those born to a cohabiting couple will have experienced the breakup of their parents, for instance. The declining stability of families is linked both to increases in cohabiting relationships, which tend to be less long-lasting than marriages, as well as long-term increases in divorce,” said Pew’s report.
So what? People get divorced often, and parents are perfectly capable of being raised by parents who are not married. That may be true, but research indicates that having unmarried parents can have a negative impact on children.
Economic evidence shows that married-parent families are typically better off. Pew found that single moms face a challenging economic climate, and roughly one-in-four solo parents live with their own parent. However, many single or unmarried parents still do just fine with raising their kids.
A 2015 survey by Pew found 48% of adults thought the trend of more unmarried couples raising children was “bad for society”. Two-thirds felt the same way about the rise of single mothers. It seems that it is hard to tell whether unmarried parents are actually bad, or if society just thinks they are bad.