For the first time in American history, “the median age [of women] at first birth (25.7) now falls before the median age at first marriage (26.5).” For the first time women are having children before getting married. This is known as the Great Crossover, where the average age of a woman during her first child’s birth precedes her age while getting married.
The dynamics of marriage are clearly changing for such a statistic to be true. Children, born for centuries to married parents, are now often born to unwed women in their twenties. According to a New York Times article, the increase in children born to unwed mothers does not come from impoverished, lower class women; rather, from twentysomething year old women who have often received some college education.
The Knot Yet Report, a report that describes the pros and cons of both delayed and early marriage, was released in March. In general, women who postpone marriage until their 30s make close to $15,000 more than women who get married in their early to mid twenties. Men who are unmarried or who are cohabiting are also much more likely to be depressed than married men.
But the person who is affected most by parents who have children out of marriage is the child himself.
As the Knot Report states, “Children born outside of marriage—including to cohabiting couples—are much more likely to experience family instability, school failure, and emotional problems. In fact, children born to cohabiting couples are three times more likely to see their parents break up, compared to children born to married parents.”
Instead of two committed, devoted partners, children are born outside marriage to a distracted partner not interested in a long term commitment.
Marriage may not be for everyone, but for those interested in commitment, devotion, and possibly more life satisfaction, it should be considered.
This brings up the argument for legalizing gay marriage: children function better with two married parents. So in the interest of children, gay marriage should be legalized. The Supreme Court is currently debating a case that could legalize gay marriage, and Justice Anthony Kennedy is considered a swing vote. Even Kennedy has voiced his concerns about delaying same sex marriage–just last week Kennedy said “there are some 40,000 children in California … that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”