Southern governors war on divorce//out of wedlock
Mon Jan 24 12:44:41 EST 2000
from: Smart Marriages
check this out:
Southern governors declare war on divorce
By Lisa Moricoli Latham
Jan. 24, 2000
More women having babies without husbands
Monday, January 24, 2000
By ANDREA SIMAKIS
PLAIN DEALER REPORTER
Paula Carrington gave birth to Rosa a month ago. Rosa's father named her,
it's up to Carrington to raise her.
When she got pregnant at 24, Carrington never expected her boyfriend to
propose, or even to help support the child. Although he said he wanted to
a part of the baby's life, he had second thoughts as Carrington's due
"I'm not upset," she said. "I actually got over it already. She's so
beautiful. I just felt I could do it myself."
Carrington is one of the growing share of women in Greater Cleveland and
across the country having babies without having husbands.
But contrary to the widespread impression, it's not teenage moms who are
responsible for the upswing; the rate of teen births is steadily falling.
births to unmarried adult women, both locally and nationally, are on the
In 1990, teenagers accounted for nearly half of 6,400 births to unmarried
women in Cleveland; in 1997, they accounted for only a fifth of 6,250
births. Women 20 and older account for the rest.
The same trend is visible in Cuyahoga County as a whole, and in Lake,
Medina and Lorain counties. It was most striking in Lorain County, where
rate of births to unmarried adult women increased by more than 40 percent
from 1989 to 1998.
Whether the babies are born to teens or adults, the trend is alarming to
policymakers and pundits.
Children born to unmarried mothers have a greater chance of living in
at some point in their lives than kids born to married women, said
Holsinger Kunkel, co-author of Social Indicators 2000, a recent
of statistics about the risks facing Cuyahoga County children and
The countyís typical unmarried mother is poor, lives in an inner-city
neighborhood or an aging first-ring suburb and struggles constantly to
job that pays a living wage.
Children of unwed mothers also tend to have lower grades, more behavioral
problems and higher rates of chronic health and psychiatric disorders,
Kunkelís report concluded. And kids growing up in single-parent homes are
more likely to drop out of school, spend time in jail or on the
line - and to become teen parents themselves.
Finally, most experts agree that children growing up in two-parent
are not only more likely to be financially secure, but emotionally
Given such grave disadvantages to unmarried motherhood, why would single
women choose it?
True, many out-of-wedlock pregnancies are unplanned. But more and more,
motherhood is viewed as an acceptable way of life.
For some women, having a baby is a means of building self-esteem. For
itís a better career than flipping burgers. And for too many, being
the only alternative to living with an abusive man.
"This handís providing while this handís killing you," said Jonnetta
Witherspoon, 36, of Cleveland. "And Iím not going to give anybody a
put their hands on me."
"Marriage? Itís the scariest thing I ever heard of," said Peggy Anne
41-year-old Cleveland mother of four.
"When the father chose not to participate, I was kind of pleased," she
"I didnít know how to be a wife. ... Even during the hard times, I didnít
consider him a source of support."
Hayesí own father left when she was 12, and it broke her heart. But his
abandonment taught her an important lesson.
"I assume that men leave you," she said.
As the only child of a single mother, Hayes wanted babies of her own
"it was like extending my own family."
In Hayesí mind, she and her children are safer if the man in her life has
sense of ownership - if heís not paying the rent and she doesnít share
"You can get away from a boyfriend, but how can you get away from a
The battered womenís shelters are full of married women."
Lisa Brush, assistant professor of sociology at the University of
said a "moral shift" in American society had made unwed motherhood more
acceptable. Madonna and Murphy Brown made it almost chic.
But public tolerance only goes so far, Brush said: Madonna can afford to
care of her own kids; most unwed mothers cannot.
"This society hates unmarried, poor women with children," she said. "The
thinking goes, ëIím working my butt off and my husband is working his
off and we donít have time to see our kids, but part of our tax dollars
going to support this unmarried woman who stays home with her kids.í The
resentment is perfectly understandable."
But so, for many women, is the choice of unwed motherhood, said Sue
Pearlmutter, assistant professor of social work at Case Western Reserve
"Nobody says, ëIím going to have a child out of wedlock so I can become
impoverished,í" Pearlmutter said. "Itís not a rational economic decision
itís an emotional decision. For many of us, being a real woman is being
someoneís lover or someoneís mother."
But other experts say women do not always choose unwed motherhood;
they are forced into it.
"The early welfare system basically persecuted women for having men in
lives," said Marsha Blanks, director of the St. Martin de Porres Center
Glenville. "In theí60s, it was common for a social worker to come to a
womanís apartment to see if there were menís clothes in the closet."
Worse, fathers learned that their children could get along better without
them, Blanks said. If they stayed away, their children would have
government-guaranteed access to food and health care - something they
couldnít always provide.
"We destroyed families," Blanks said. "Now we have to live with what we
30 years ago, and weíre not going to turn it around in three years."
Indeed, the efforts to turn it around have produced social-policy changes
ranging from tinkerings to radical welfare reform, and results have been
So it is, too, with individual lives.
Peggy Anne Hayes spent years on welfare, but did manage to go back to
and get a degree in social work. Now she counsels women, many of them
mothers, at the St. Martin de Porres Center on Clevelandís East Side.
Trina Harris hasnít been so lucky. She went from a being single working
mother to being a welfare mom, and has yet to find her way back.
Harris, 34, hefted boxes in a New Jersey clothing warehouse for a decade
support her two boys. Their father never helped with the family finances,
her own relationship with him hadnít blossomed into marriage. But she
think having a husband was necessary; she always made enough to pay for
apartment and keep her bank account healthy.
Then she did what she now considers a dumb thing. She moved out of state
Cleveland - to be with a new boyfriend.
He told Harris he wanted to marry her and said he was saving for a big
wedding. But three years and two kids later, they still werenít man and
And because her youngest child has a chronic medical condition, she
take a full-time job.
So Harris went on welfare. She and her four children get $305 each month
less than the monthly rent for her apartment - plus food stamps. Her
kids sold candy with a church group to earn extra money. It wasnít
her welfare caseworker put the baby into a foster home until Harris can
back on her feet.
Like all those now receiving public assistance, however, she has a
cap on her benefits. After that, sheís on her own.
Harris doesnít regret having children out of wedlock, but she sees now
her choices have made it difficult to keep them all together.
"I thought we were going to be a family," she said.
This FREE online newsletter shares information on marriage, divorce and
skills-based educational approaches. Opinions expressed are not
necessarily shared by members of the Coalition.
Copyright © 2000 CMFCE. All rights reserved.
To SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE to the list, mail majordomo at his.com
Leave the subject line empty. In the body of the
message type: subscribe smartmarriages or unsubscribe smartmarriages
(do this on the first line, do not skip a space at the top)
- to CHANGE YOUR ADDRESS, follow the directions to unsubscribe your old
address and subscribe your new address.
- this is a moderated list. When you send a reply message it is read by
Diane Sollee, director, only.
Newsletter archive - all past posts to the newsletter:
4th Annual Smart Marriages conference/June 29 - July 2, 2000, DENVER
for registration, hotel and travel information.
up to 57 hours CEU -APA, SW, MFT, NBCC, CFLE
List your program in the Directory of Providers at:
Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, LLC (CMFCE)
Diane Sollee, Director
5310 Belt Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20015-1961
202-362-3332 (FAX 202-362-0973) Email: cmfce at smartmarriages.com
More information about the SmartMarriages