Sometimes it happens on purpose, but many times it doesn’t. There are plenty of women who are pregnant without marriage. According to The National Marriage Project (University of Virginia) reported in 2013, almost half of all first births are to unmarried mothers. Typically, the report explained, these births are coming to women in their 20s with some college education under their belts.
It seems that cultural and religious views of marriage before pregnancy are no longer valid for a lot of people. In fact, it seems that “untraditional” ways of bringing children into the world are becoming more the norm. Perhaps those experiencing pre-marriage pregnancy don’t believe in marriage itself, they don’t have a person they want to marry, or they believe that having a child trumps all of that. Perhaps today, they believe they can do it themselves because they have the education, money, and support system to do so.
There are many successful, well adjusted children who come from homes where parents are unmarried, or from single mother households. However, before embarking on this important decision, here are some reasons why pregnancy before marriage isn’t necessarily the best idea.
Marriage should be a commitment separate from pregnancy
When pregnancy comes before marriage, it can sometimes pressure the couple into getting married, or just speed up the decision of marriage, for the sake of the child. This may or may not be a bad thing, depending on the commitment of the couple and their willingness to work on the marriage relationship and also rear the child together. However, marriage should be a commitment separate from pregnancy. For two people to consider if they should officially spend their lives together, they should do so without pressure from outside forces. They should marry because they love each other, not because they feel they are supposed to. A marriage that feels forced could later end if the couple resents the hurried and pressured commitment.
Research shows children born outside marriage face many risks
Many studies have been done that show children born outside of marriage face several risk factors. According to the Urban Institute’s study of Marriage and the Economic Well-Being of Families with Children, children who are born outside of marriage face elevated risk of falling into poverty. With just the woman supporting the child, for example, while trying to care for herself during pregnancy, and then for the newborn and growing child, the woman is more likely to have to drop out of education and take a lesser paying job, and therefore be more likely to live in poverty. Rising above that can be difficult. Also, according to an article in Journal of Marriage and the Family (in 2004), children born to cohabiting—but not married—parents are more likely to face not only socioeconomic disadvantage, but also deal with more behavioral and emotional issues than children born to married parents.
Marriage offers security and safety
Of course you can be committed to your partner and not be married. But to a child, knowing your parents are married speaks volumes. There is a stability and safety that comes when you know your parents are married. You know they made this decision and made it official. It’s legal, and they are bound together, and it is an outward symbol of their love to each other. Also, it’s a promise. As a child you know they made a promise to be there for each other, and there is just something about that promise that makes a child feel as if his or her parents will always be there—together—for him or her.
There can be legal ramifications for unwed parents
For parents experiencing a pre-marriage pregnancy, it’s important that you know the laws that govern parenting. It differs from state to state, so look into laws specific to your state of residence. In a very basic sense, married parents tend to have more legal rights than unwed parents. For example, if the woman wants to give the baby up for adoption, depending on the state the man only has a limited time to file that he does not wish for it to go forward. Also, in some states taxes can be an issue; it may be that only one parent can file for the child as a dependant, and in some cases an unwed couple can’t file for the non-working spouse as a dependant. Also consider medical insurance or rights. In the case of an unwed couple, it can be hard to navigate the system to benefit everyone.
Having a baby is an exciting and joyful time of anticipation for a new life to enter into the home. In this modern era, more and more people are choosing to become pregnant before they are married. While many families develop and thrive under this structure, there is still evidence from research that suggests pregnancy before marriage isn’t always best. Couples should look at all the aspects of it before making their decision. In the end, creating a loving environment for the new child is of utmost importance.