Baby Then Marriage: The New Normal?

baby-and-marriageFor centuries, there was only one acceptable formula to create a family: marriage then baby. No “nice young woman” would even think of straying from this format. Just ask your mother and grandmother. Becoming pregnant without a wedding ring was a shameful and scandalous situation that could only be remedied by getting married as soon as possible. However, that thought seems absurd today, especially among young adults.

Babies First
If what celebrities do is what’s trendy, then getting pregnant before marriage is all the rage. Just look at Eva Mendes, Mila Kunis, Zooey Deschanel, and Kourtney Kardashian. Some of them are now married, others are engaged, and some have no plans of walking down the aisle, but all of them got pregnant before their man “put a (wedding) ring on it.”

It isn’t just celebrities who are putting the baby carriage before marriage. In 2013, a report, cosponsored by The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, indicated that 48 percent of first births were to unmarried mothers. Most of these women were in their 20s.

The number of unmarried women having babies isn’t the only thing that’s increasing. Societal acceptance of women having babies before marriage is also on the rise. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center showed that 80 percent of people surveyed believe that an unmarried couple living and raising a child together is a family. These results show that society is changing.

While this shift may seem new to the United States, it’s actually been the norm in many European countries for years. Some of these countries include France, Iceland, and Sweden. In fact, 65 percent of births in Iceland occur outside of marriage, making the idea of marriage, then baby seem like the novel one there.

A Blend of Causes
American society is obviously changing, but what’s causing it? A unique blend of cultural and economic changes is prompting society to start defining family based more on function than on formality.

The age at which American women are getting married and having their first child has long been increasing. It has also become more common in our society for unmarried couples to live together. Women also have greater economic independence than ever before. That freedom is spilling over into women’s personal lives, empowering them to call the shots when it comes to marriage and family. Most women still want both a career and a family, but they’re now getting more say in how they want that to look and when they want those things to happen.

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About This Blogger

Shannon Flynn

Shannon Flynn is an attorney and freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio. She received both her bachelor's degree in Psychology and law degree from The Ohio State University. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, doing Pilates, playing with her two cats, and spending time with her fiancé.