Unmarried Births at All-Time High

A new report on American motherhood from the Pew Research Center found births to unmarried women increased 13 percent between 1990 and 2008. 

In 2008, births to unmarried women made up 41 percent of American births, compared to only 28 percent in 1990.  

The Pew report explained the uptick in out-of-wedlock births as the result of Americans “marrying later in life, or not at all” and noted “Americans have softened slightly in their disapproval of unmarried parenthood.”

Hollywood has certainly helped “soften” that disapproval. Often played for laughs, recent movies have featured story lines about single women desperate for babies. 

CBS Films released “The Back Up Plan” last month, a comedy starring Jennifer Lopez as a woman who underwent fertility help to become a single mother, only to meet the man of her dreams once she's pregnant.

“The Switch,” a movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, hits theaters in August. This comedy focuses on Aniston as a woman became pregnant by artificial insemination, and her best male friend who switched the donor sperm with his own. Seven years later, they meet up.

Two years ago, “Miss Conception” starred Heather Graham as a woman who found out she had one month to conceive a child and forged ahead on her own. Even the protagonist in “Knocked Up,” praised by some conservatives for its pro-life message, first contemplated raising a child on her own.

Despite the fact that in these movies, the woman often ends up with, at the very least, a committed partner to help parent, the message still resonates that single motherhood is nothing to fret about.

Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, celebrated the news of increased out-of-wedlock births.

“It's yet another nail in the coffin in the hope that we can solve the challenges facing us today by shoehorning everyone back into marriages,” she told the Associated Press on May 5.  “One of the big problems with that at this point is very often kids do worse if their mother rushes into a marriage that may be unstable.”

Coontz is apparently forgetting that single parenthood presents its own problems. Concerned Women for America's Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse wrote in 2006, “Despite the Hollywood myths and the feminist rhetoric, being a mother of small children is a vulnerable time for women, and the presence and support of a husband is vital to the welfare of her children.”