NEWPORT, South Wales – Recent research from both the U.S. and U.K. suggests that the percentage of children born outside of wedlock continues to steadily increase, but—at the same time—experts continue to reaffirm the healthiness of the Biblical family structure.
Detailed data released on Wednesday by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that just under half of live births in England and Wales are now to unmarried women. If current trends continue, the majority of children in the U.K. will be born outside of wedlock by 2016.
The statistics published this week by the ONS (which cover the years 1938 through 2012) show that approximately 48% of births in the U.K. occur outside of marriage—nearly a 7% jump from ten years ago. These figures are even more staggering when older statistics are considered, as in the 1950’s, fewer than 5% of babies were born to single mothers, and even as recently as 1980, the number was less than 12%.
These trends are not unique to England and Wales, as across most developed Western countries, the number of unmarried mothers is rising rapidly. A report in March by CBS News details how 48% of first births in the U.S. now happen out of wedlock, and—by age 30—two-thirds of American women will have had a child outside of marriage.
These figures are even greater for women with lower education levels; for non-high school graduates, 83% of first births are to unmarried mothers.
Similar research also suggests that the Biblical family model leads to healthier marriages, families and lifestyles. As stated in the CBS News report, recent data shows that young, unmarried parents are much more likely to struggle financially, have emotional and behavioral problems, and do poorly with school studies. Additionally, nearly 40% of unmarried couples living together part ways within the first five years of their first child’s life.
Multiple marriage and family experts explain how two-parent homes are the healthiest environment for children, whereas parenthood before marriage frequently leads to problems.
“The biggest downside to delayed marriage in America is that many young adults are now putting the baby carriage before marriage,” says Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project. “What they often don’t realize is that children born outside of marriage are significantly more likely to be exposed to a revolving cast of caretakers and the social, emotional and financial fallout associated with family instability and single parenthood.”
Experts in the U.K. wholeheartedly agree. Tim Loughton, former Children’s Minister, believes that publicly exchanging marriage vows leads to higher levels of commitment when it comes to marriage.
“If people are prepared to make a public declaration to each other in front of their friends and family, they are more likely to stay together,” Loughton told The Telegraph. “Without marriage people drift in and out of relationships very easily.”
Christian Guy of the U.K.’s Centre for Social Justice also affirms the healthiness of marriage.
“Marriage is not a right wing obsession, but a crucial social justice issue,” he explained to The Telegraph. “Evidence shows quite clearly that children growing up with married parents tend to have better life chances.”