When you’re thinking about unmarriage and children, it’s handy to remember the number 40. That’s roughly the percentage of all babies who are born to unmarried mothers, of unmarried moms who live with their partners, of unmarried partner households that include children, and of all children who can expect to live with cohabiting partners at some time. (For the precise numbers, see our briefing kit.)
Thirty-three percent of lesbian couples live with children, as do 22% of gay male couples. The majority of unmarried families with children are actually unmarried stepfamilies, where the children live with one biological or adoptive parent, and that parent’s partner.
A large body of research shows that the vast majority of children with unmarried parents turn out fine on every measure of well-being. Children need
stability and parents who are actively involved in their lives, and most unmarried parents provide the same kind of love and care that married parents do. And many unmarried couples tell us that once they had children, most people who met them assumed they were married! Given the sheer number of children who live with unmarried parents, we believe it’s essential to help unmarried families be healthy and strong — whether they ultimately marry or not.
Most of the issues facing unmarried parents are the same as those that affect married parents. We should worry about any parents who aren’t prepared for the long-term commitment parenting entails, and help all parents succeed.
The words “illegitimate” and “bastard” no longer have legal meaning and are fading fast from modern vocabularies, and biological parents have the same legal rights and responsibilities whether they’re married or not.