In the past few days Jersey Shore’s Snooki has faced a lot of rumors about her potential pregnancy with boyfriend Jionni LaValle. Many have already raised concern about Snooki’s desire to bankroll her name to become the next Kourtney Kardashian, highlighting the potential money that Snooki can make off of her pregnancy and child in the months and years to come.
But Snooki’s pregnancy also highlights a wider underlying trend: the number of pregnancies among unmarried millenials has been rising rapidly over the years. Now, more than 4 out of every 10 births are to unmarried women and many of their families face an arduous road ahead.
The rise in pregnancies among unmarried couples is alarming as well because of the other trends that are associated with it.
For starters, children born to unmarried mothers are more likely to live in poverty, grow up amidst unstable living conditions, face more problems related to socio-economic status, reach a lower educational level, and have a baby out of wedlock, perpetuating the cycle.
Additionally, as these children mature, they are more likely to not be employed or be in school, have a lower income, rely more on welfare, and have more marital and relational problems than children born to parents who were married. Moreover, women who give birth to children outside of marriage tend to be more disadvantaged than their married counterparts both before and after birth in regards to income and future prospects.
These unfortunate situations are not caused by births out of wedlock but are linked in some manner. There are always exceptions, but these associations indicate a general trend.
Pregnancies out of wedlock are not bad for moral reasons but are more likely to lead to a host of other problems for the children as they grow up. It’s those consequences that give unmarried pregnant couples or single mothers a bad name and portrayal in society. This negative image or “illegitimacy” associated with such pregnancies and births limits the opportunities available to these mothers, couples, and children.
Approximately 50% of the non-marital births are to teenage mothers. Teenagers lack the maturity, experience, and development necessary to deal with children that an older person has been afforded through the years. Moreover, these teenagers often lack the support they need from their families or their communities and have to deal with their situation themselves, often times causing them to drop out of school and find alternate solutions such as a job. This immediately impacts their earning potential – jobs available to students with little, some or a full high school education do not make as much in today’s economy as they would have in the past. This lack of income contributes to their inability to advance on the economic ladder and create new opportunities for their children.
These non-marital births “cost taxpayers $2.2 billion in welfare and food stamps each year.”
Our system is more prepared to receive, accept, and help married couples with children than they are with children born to co-habiting unions, single or teenage mothers, or other unmarried couples. They need support and structure to advance and break the cycle. Although it is not impossible for these families and children to succeed, given their situation and children it becomes more difficult.
It is no surprise that “approximately 30% of all welfare recipients start because they have an out-of-wedlock birth.” Accessing basic health care services, quality education, and having a strong support system for both for parent(s) and children are vital to relieving many of the problems associated with non-marital births.
Thankfully, it is becoming easier since the social stigma attached to pregnancies and children out of wedlock is slowly changing and the level of acceptance is growing. By 2015, it is expected that 50% of American births will be to single mothers.
Now, the issue should be focused on why there are so many problems that are associated with such non-traditional births and how those associations can be broken. Efforts should also be focused on improving access of basic services and helping these families break their cycle.
Essentially, not everyone will be fortunate as Snooki’s child. Given the rising number of pregnancies among unmarried women in the United States and the problems associated with non-marital births, finding solutions and offering structural support to these families and children will improve many people’s overall standard of living, foster independence and self-reliance, and decrease their dependence of government securities such as welfare and food stamps.
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