May 19, 2009 07:47
A growing number of women are having children and raising them without marrying. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that an analysis of birth records in 14 of the world's most advanced countries during 1980 to 2007 showed a sharp increase in childbirth among unmarried women. The CDC added that patterns of childbirth were changing across the globe.
◆ Fewer Teens Are Single Moms
Northern European countries had the largest proportion of babies born from single moms. In Iceland it was 60 percent (40 percent in 1980), Sweden 55 percent (40 percent in 1980) and Norway 54 percent (15 percent in 1980). Most northern European countries had more than 50 percent of their newborns coming from unwed mothers and their numbers were on the rise. The United States (18 percent in 1980 to 40 percent in 2007) ranked in the middle along with England (12 to 44 percent) and Ireland (5 to 33 percent). In contrast, Japan, the only Asian country on the list, had the lowest number of babies born from unwed mothers (1 to 2 percent). The Netherlands showed the highest rate of increase, with the number of babies born from unwed mothers accounting for just 4 percent of all newborns in 1980 surging to 40 percent in 2007.
In the 1970s, 50 percent of all unwed mothers in the U.S. were in their teens. But that ratio fell to 23 percent in 2007. In contrast, the proportion of unwed mothers in their 20s surged from 42 percent to 60 percent over that period. The number of unwed mothers in their 30s rose from 8 percent to 17 percent. The CDC assessed that women in their 20s -- their prime marrying age -- especially in their early 20s (80 out of every 1,000 women was 20-24 years of age) were the prime drivers of the "surge in single moms."
◆ Who Needs Marriage?
U.S. broadcaster ABC cited changing values toward marriage as the main reason behind the shift in childbirth patterns. Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, said that there have traditionally been many instances of unmarried women having children in Scandinavia. Cherlin added that this type of lifestyle was spreading to other countries, saying that the differences between countries were due to differences in values. Americans still have an idealistic view of marriage. But in Sweden, more importance is placed on a "stable relationship" regardless of marriage.
◆ Concerns Over Children's Upbringing
But children born to single mothers still face many problems. Stephanie Ventura, with the CDC's Reproductive Statistics Branch, said studies show higher instances of below-average weight, premature birth, or infant deaths among such children. Ventura added that single moms suffer financial difficulties more frequently than married moms, requiring changes in the public welfare system to accommodate changing childbirth patterns.
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