Unmarried Parents – the Mothers

Even when social scientists refuse to confront the moral questions, they must admit that a woman giving birth outside the bonds of marriage is creating serious problems for herself, the child, and society at large. So what personal and household circumstances foster such births, and what contrasting circumstances prevent them? In a study recently completed at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers highlight religious commitments as a potent check on out-of-wedlock childbearing. The Columbia and Madison researchers begin their inquiry conscious of the many “negative outcomes” linked to out-of-wedlock childbearing, including “health problems, educational problems, and poverty.” In their effort to identify “protective factors” against such childbearing, the researchers examine data collected in two surveys (one in 1995, one in 2008) from a nationally representative study of 7,367 women who were adolescents in 1995. Again and again, the data identify religion as a force holding down the number of children born out of wedlock. For the Total Population involved in the survey, the data indicate that “religious importance” was “negatively related” to giving birth to a child out of wedlock, such births being significantly less likely among young women identifying religion as an important influence in their lives than among peers discounting the importance of religion (p < 0.05). A parallel analysis establishes that women who “did not have scripture or were not religious” were significantly more likely to bear a child out of wedlock than peers who owned scripture and said they were religious (p < 0.01). Among whites, the largest ethnic group in the study, the more often women attended religious services, the less likely they were to bear a child out of wedlock (p < 0.05). Among all ethnic groups, those who prayed were significantly less likely to bear a child out of wedlock than were peers who did
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