Statistics show that while Sarah Palin may face some whispers and criticism from those in her own party, because her pregnant teenage daughter didn’t get married, Bristol Palin’s situation is actually the norm in the U.S. where less than 8% of teenage moms marry the father of their child.
A press release released put out by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, highlighted some interesting statistics that pointed out that 8 out of 10 teenage fathers don’t marry the marry the mother of their child, and teenage mothers who don’t marry the father are also less likely to be married by age 35. There is also a changing cultural dynamic against teenage marriage. In 1975, 11% of teenagers were married, but by 2002 this percentage had dropped to 2.5%. In 1980, 52% of teen births occurred in marriage. By 2002, this number had dropped to 20%.
One other statistic serves to refute the social conservative argument that pregnant teens should get married. Teen marriages are twice as likely to fail as those that occur when the woman is at least 25 years old. This would seem to be common sense, because a general rule older people are more mature. However, these statistics would seem to deal a blow to the social conservative myth that pregnant teen couples are better off getting married.
“Marriage and birth patterns among teens have changed over time, shifting from a general trend of marrying before pregnancy, to marrying as a result of pregnancy, to becoming pregnant and not marrying,” said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “Even though many unmarried teen mothers have high expectations for eventually marrying the father of their child, few ever do.”
Sarah Palin is drawing criticism, while her daughter’s decision is being praised. Bonnie Erbe over at US News and World Report wrote that, “From where I sit, Bristol Palin displays a lot more personal maturity and decision-making ability than her mother, who obviously tried to persuade Bristol to wed her “baby daddy… Is this good for her mother’s political career? Obviously not. Social conservatives believe strongly the daughter should have been forced into marriage.”
I think that this whole episode shows the fallacy of the social conservatives’ position on teenage sex. Abstinence doesn’t work, and forcing teenagers to get married is a recipe for creating a broken home that would benefit the child less than being in a loving single parent home. Although some Republicans don’t want to face it, Bristol Palin is the norm, not the exception.