Single Mothers: The Unintended Consequences

I was unaware that single mothers raising their children could cause a major problem for society.  Then I read a book by Levitt and Dubner, entitled Freakonomics, and more recently a second by Ann Coulter, Guilty.  Both books detail the hidden damage of single mothers on our society. Teen crime

The issue:  Single mothers have often been touted as heroines and, I suspect, some are.  Let’s be clear though. Women that have never been married are at odds with the historical pattern for healthy, stable homes and this deviance is catching up with us here in the USA. While data is scarce, we are learning that the majority of children of a single parent are running away with crime statistics.  1) The strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison was that he was raised by a single parent, and 2) 70% of inmates in state detention centers serving long-time sentences were raised by single (never married) moms.

Significance:  Aside from ethical and moral considerations, the additional costs to society are in areas like welfare payments, health care, and incarceration.  Less obvious would be the lost potential of children who are born without the guiding hand of a father.

Past:  The Trend was toward wayward children of single moms before Roe v. Wade, 22 Jan 73.  Then it changed:  for a while.  The most likely person to have an abortion was a girl/woman, unmarried, in her teens, poor, or a combination.   In the 1990s, just when children born after Roe v. Wade reached their teens, the crime rate dropped.  Legalized abortion had led to less crime.

Teen violencePresent:  It’s back again.  A never-married parent is becoming more common in single-parent homes. Between 1970 and 2007, the proportion of children living with a never-married parent increased from 7 percent to 42 percent. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Care Statistics shows that 2007 was a record-setting year when it comes to American births. Not only did we beat out the apex of the baby boom in terms of sheer birthrate, but also we hit a record with births to unwed mothers at a whopping 40 percent. Furthermore, teen pregnancies increased for the second year in a row after a long period of decline throughout the ’90s and early part of this decade.

Current:  Children from single-parent families account for 63 percent of all youth suicides, 70 percent of al teenage pregnancies, 71 percent of adolescent chemical/substance abuse, 80 percent of all prison inmates, and 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children. (Source: Index of Leading Cultural Indicators) An opposing point of view:  probably a reference to Ann Coulter:

“There is one social commentator, all too visible in the media, who is so vile that I make a point of not ever watching her or mentioning her name. I’ve been getting some e-mails about her in the past week. Apparently, she’s been bashing single mothers. Her latest claim, according to the “Living Single” readers who have gotten in touch with me, is that single mothers, together with liberals, are responsible for all of the nation’s ills. I haven’t heard her version and I’m not going to look it up. I’m totally open to other points of view but I don’t want to encourage hateful expressions of them. So regardless of what she actually did say, I thought that readers might like to see my take on single mothers. Here is what I wrote for the Huffington Post on Mother’s Day in 2007.”

This is a female blogger who feels that the single parent is the object of scorn.  And she refuses to check out what is being said.  Understand:  Single moms are not the object here – it is the damage done, for whatever reason, by the teenagers of single moms. So what?  An extensive review of marriage research released in September by the Brookings Institution and Princeton found that children fare best when raised by their married, biological parents. Still, more couples are cohabiting, which tends to be less stable for children.

Thesis.  What I think / feel?  What is the social trend? I come from a generation and a faith believing that the only form of marriage is between one man and one woman.  Further, this is the only arrangement where a child should be brought into the world.  Teenagers having sex, with the girl becoming pregnant, in almost every case will yield one or more of the results described above.  I have helped to raise seven children and am thankful to God that none had to experience any of this trauma.

One observation is, “What we have called our ‘teen pregnancy’ crisis is not really about teenagers. Nor is it really about pregnancy. It is about the decline of marriage.”  I agree with this blogger.  And the trend is international.  I lived in Germany for seven years during the recent past and for reasons unexplained to me, cohabitating couples having a child (almost always, only one), was the norm. I am told that television and the movies reflect our social mores but I am often unsure which is influencing which.

Politics, too, seems to be entering the fray.  The Obama administration is not only in favor of abortion but is installing officers in high HHS government posts that are in favor of abortion on demand.  On the positive side, easy abortions may again reduce teenage crime statistics, but what is it doing to the potential children who could might find a cure for AIDS, or assist humanity by achieving distinction in science, arts, and/or sports? Your call!!

Dr. Bud ColegroveDr.Bud Colegrove has a Ph.D. in Economics and has been teaching with the University of Maryland and other institutions since 1992. From 1974-1992 he worked as an Electrical Engineer with the US Navy and industry. Dr.Bud has recently begun writing for Faith and Facts as well as Whip the Liberals.

EDIT ***********

I am adding a postcript to this post to clarify the postition of Faith and Facts, Dr.Bud, and myself (Bruce).

The purpose of this post is to point out a social problem and encourage the discussion of possible solutions. We do not blame women and certainly do not absolve men for the problems pointed out in this article. The fact is that the nuclear family has changed and husbands are absent too often. The results are usually bad. We think that should change. So, rather than tell us, “Women are not to blame,” or “Men are pigs,” I suggest you provide meaningful actions we can take in our communities, churches, and politics to reverse this ill-effect.

Also, the single mothers we are talking about are not the victims of divorce. Please re-read the article carefully. The high crime stats are related to single mothers that have never been married. Women that have forsaken the traditional model of family with increasingly negative results.

We realize this is a sensitive issue and are not trying to bash women or misstate the problem. We are, however, hoping to foster discussion that helps move our society in a better direction.