Single moms: a scourge on society?

unwed-mother-movie-posterThe Pew Research Center, a “nonpartisan fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world,” released a study the other day regarding our country’s attitudes towards “unwed mothers,” one of those terms from the 1950s that’s apparently still with us. Seriously, when’s the last time you heard a guy referred to as an unwed father?


The study is of particular interest because, as it happens, single motherhood is on the rise. Statistics released last year show that the number of children born to unmarried women has increased by 26% since 2002, although we’re not exactly talking about “babies having babies” here. While there are definitely teenage moms in the mix, the largest increase of non-marital births is among women aged 25-39 years of age. Many of those women are in long-term relationships; they just aren’t in long-term legal relationships. Others are having babies because they want them and can afford them and don’t happen to have a husband around to make it all nice and neat and Leave It to Beaverish.


Which has some peoples’ knickers in a bunch (the majority of whom appear to be over the age of 65).  According to the Pew study, 66% of the 2,020 adults interviewed felt single women having children was a “bad thing for society” (although 25% said it made no difference and 6% said it was a good thing). Also objectionable, at least to 59% of the folks, unmarried couples having children; gay and lesbian couples raising children (50% thought this was “bad”) and mothers of young children working (41% felt this was a “bad thing”).


This might be a dumb question, but how the heck are you supposed to earn a living — and raise your child — without working?


My personal favorite were the folks who thought that women who go through life without ever having a child were also “bad” (29% went there). Equally offensive, at least to 21%: dads who stay home to take care of their own children.


Extrapolating on this data, my guess is 26% of those queried also think women in general are “bad” or “wrong.” And 65% think they have cooties. So what do you think? Are single mothers the scourge of society?  Or do we face more of a threat from belief systems (and perhaps even survey questions) that haven’t quite caught up with the 21st century?

5 Responses to “Single moms: a scourge on society?”

  1. 1 Dr. Leah April 18, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks for discussing yet again another “let’s bash single mom” study. Where do they find these study participants?

  2. 2 onely April 19, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Well, 100 percent of bloggers at Onely think that 66 percent of the Pew respondents are “bad”. So take THAT, you bunchy-knickered whiners.

    (Ah, nothing like some nice Sunday morning name-calling. Sorry, couldn’t help it.)


    P.S. These belief systems are absolutely horrifying. I can only hope you’re right that most of the people saying I’m bad for not having a child
    (that I am unprepared to care for and who will be yet another drain on the planet) are older than 65 and will soon be extinct. I guess they could pass their terrible mores on to the younger generation, but I like to think that the tide is rising against them. I think that the singles movements’ attempts to deconstruct the mystique of marriage are so important in helping future generations to restructure their belief systems and, accordingly, restructure social and legal programs to be more inclusive of “alternative” families like single mothers (and unwed fathers! = ) )

  3. 3 Singlutionary April 19, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    What is good? Usually, when you ask these same folks that question they will come up with this: A married couple.

    Well, in some states a married couple is a man and a man or a woman and a woman.

    And if being married makes people better parents, lets let gay people in all states get married.

    And then I ask: is it better for parents to be married if one parent is abusive or absent? And the answer is no.

    So then the ideal parents are hetrosexual non-abusive, non-absent married couples.


    So the rest of us shouldn’t have kids?


    I’m not planning on having any kids.

    Why? Don’t you want to get married and serve god by producing offspring with your non-abusive, non-absent hetrosexualhusband?

    Nope. I don’t even want to get married.

    Well, you’re crazy.

  4. 4 Sixty and Single in Seattle April 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Am I just old and sensitive, or was that a dismissive parenthesis there in paragraph three? about these respondents being over 65? Or what was the point?

    • 5 singleshot1 April 25, 2009 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and checking out the site, Sixty & Single. The parenthetical comment regarding the majority of respondents being over 65 was actually just a boring old statement of fact.

      The Pew study breaks down the respondents in various ways, including age. 68% of the 65+ group felt it was “always or almost always wrong” for women who weren’t married to have children. In the 50-64 year old group, it was split 48% to 48%; in the 30-49-year-old group, 38% felt it was wrong as compared to 58% who felt it was “sometimes wrong or not at all wrong.” The 18 – 29 year olds were okay with it vs not okay with it, 67% vs 30%. Out of all the demographic breakdowns (men/women; white, black & Hispanic; education level; income level) the 65+ group stood out as the one with the biggest bias against single motherhood.

      To me it makes sense, considering how shameful it was to be an “unwed mother” back in the day. Obviously, circumstances/ cultural norms have changed but the old stigmas are still strong. I’m looking on the bright side; 26% of the 65+ crowd isn’t passing a moral judgment. Ten years ago, that number was probably a lot higher.

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What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

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April 2009

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