Kids of single moms who later marry reap few benefits

(Medical Xpress)—With roughly four in 10 of all U.S. births now to unwed mothers, a new longitudinal study by Cornell demographers is the first to show that being raised in a single-parent home poses significant risks to adolescent physical health years later.

The researchers discovered that as teens, the offspring of never-married mothers – regardless of whether mom one day weds – report worse self-assessed but similar levels of depressive symptoms as children born in traditional, two-parent biological families.

They also discovered that among never-married mothers, getting married does not lead to improved mental and physical health for their children as teens when compared with children of never-married moms who remain single. The lone exception, however, is when a never-married mom later marries and remains with the biological dad – then the kids reap some small benefits.

The study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, casts doubt on the effectiveness of policies intended to induce never-married mothers to marry since such unions rarely last or lead to long-term gains for children born out of wedlock. That is, the lasting benefits to children that come from marriage appear to occur only when their parents wed prior to birth, not in marriages formed later.

"We find that marriage is no panacea for single mothers," said co-author Sharon Sassler, professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology. "When mothers marry the biological father of their child and stay married to him, children have better health, but the association is modest. But relatively few mothers fit in this category."

The authors analyzed data on women and their children included in the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a nationally representative sample of individuals who were 14-22 years old at the start of the study in 1979 and continue to be regularly surveyed.

Of the survey's women, the researchers compared a sample of 704 adolescents born to never-married mothers with 1,299 of married mothers for health differentials; within the unwed sample, they also studied the health of children whose mothers later married or cohabited to those whose mothers remained single.

They found that teens whose mothers never married after their birth have no worse health than those whose mothers marry and divorce their biological fathers, marry new partners or cohabit without marrying. Only in rare cases where mothers marry and stick with the child's is improved.

The paper notes that the barriers to entering and remaining in such unions are steep – in part because such women are not always viewed as ideal spouses by men.

As a result, improving the long-term health of children born to single relies on "policy interventions beyond encouraging women to marry," Sassler argued.

"We are seeing health disadvantages in adolescents 14 or more years after their birth to a never-married mother," said Sassler. "These appear to be associated with cumulative stressors on the mother from having a nonmarital birth, stressors that apparently also take a toll on children themselves over a long period. That suggests that interventions earlier in childhood and focused on ensuring health coverage and regular visits for born in less advantaged circumstances are important."

The paper is titled "Does Nonmarital Childbearing and Mother's Later Marriage Influence Child Health in Adolescence?"

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Oct 11, 2013
So once again, traditional marriage 1 man + 1 woman is proved to be best for children.

Progressives, by doing everything you can to destroy traditional families, shows that you are at war against children and women.

Oct 11, 2013
Unfortunately you are drawing conclusions from this that aren't justified. Where in this research did they say a marriage specifically between a man and a woman? You may be right, but don't take the results of one study and conclude something that doesn't follow from that study. Demand a study to determine whether heterosexual marriages are better than homosexual marriages.

Second, you can't outlaw something just because it is not ideal. There are mountains of evidence showing that alcoholic fathers are detrimental to the health of women and children, but where is your plea to ban alcohol? "Not perfect" does not equal "war against children and women." Also, one reason for lack of traditional marriages is lack of jobs for men. Fight for more jobs if you want to save the family.

I applaud your appeal to scientific study to support your claims, but you've overstated the conclusion of this study (it only said marriage, not heterosexual marriage).

Oct 12, 2013
This isn't just the US, it's other Western countries as well. I don't get why there's such a push to have children so early in life.. But then again, so many are just after the "baby bonus" and childcare payments. Or they just assume that because their friend has a newborn that they'd better pop one out too so they can compare baby photos. There are so many new single mothers who are like 16 - 20 etc who have their whole lives ahead of them, but throw it away by becoming parents at a young age. They should get nothing from the government! Society has gone stupid!!

Oct 13, 2013
Those children may have inherited genes from their biological mom and/or dad that later lead to problems in their life. I mean, there was a reason why the parents were unable to maintain their relationship and get married. Mental problems, alcohol problems etc.

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