Becoming a Parent: The Social Contexts of Fertility During Young Adulthood

Chapter
Part of the National Symposium on Family Issues book series (NSFI, volume 2)

Abstract

Using quantitative data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, as well as qualitative data from an in-depth study of low-income fathers in Philadelphia, this chapter describes the characteristics of young adults who transition to parenthood before 25 and the family contexts into which their children are born. Most births to young adults occur outside of marriage, but unmarried parents typically rally around the birth of their child, claiming a commitment to making their relationships work. Yet, the responsibility of providing for a family of their own before they have achieved financial stability proves to be an enormous strain for most. Perhaps because the children of young adults are seldom explicitly planned, and because economic hardship and parenthood strain even the most committed relationships, young parents break up at higher rates than couples who delay childbearing. Young parents who break up with their partners do not remain single for very long, however, and quickly enter into new romantic relationships, many of which produce additional children. The churning of romantic partners, and the birth of additional children who result, create a complex web of economic obligations and negotiations that complicate paternal access to nonresident children, compromise maternal parenting, and create unstable family environments for young children.

Keywords

Burner Income Expense Smoke Shoe 

References

  1. Achatz, M., & MacAllum, C. A. (1994). Young unwed fathers: report from the field. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures.Google Scholar
  2. Ahrons, C. R. (1981). The continuing co-parental relationship between divorced parents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 51, 415–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amato, P. R., & Previti, D. (2003). People’s reasons for divorcing: gender, social class, the life course, and adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 24, 602–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amato, P. R., & Rogers, S. J. (1997). A longitudinal study of marital problems and subsequent divorce. Journal of Marriage and Family, 51, 612–624.Google Scholar
  5. Andersson, G. (2002). Children’s experience of family disruption and family formation: evidence from 16 FFS countries. Demographic Research, 7(7), 343–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Arditti, J. A. (1995). Noncustodial parents: emergent issues of diversity and process. Marriage and Family Review, 20, 283–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Arditti, J. A., Lambert-Shute, J., & Joest, K. (2003). Saturday morning at the jail: implications of incarceration for families and children. Family Relations, 52, 195–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Arditti, J. A., Smock, S. A., & Parkman, T. S. (2005). It’s been hard to be a father: a qualitative exploration of incarcerated fatherhood. Fathering, 3, 267–288.Google Scholar
  9. Augustine, J., Nelson, T., & Edin, K. (2009). Why do poor men have children? Fertility intentions among low-income unmarried U.S. fathers. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 624, 99–117.Google Scholar
  10. Bean, F. D., Berg, R. R., & Van Hook, J. (1996). Socioeconomic and cultural incorporation and marital status disruption among Mexican Americans. Social Forces, 75, 593–617.Google Scholar
  11. Buchanan, C. M., Maccoby, E. E., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1996). Adolescents after divorce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bzostek, S. (2008). Social fathers and child wellbeing. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 950–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carlson, M. J., & Furstenberg, F. F. (2006). The prevalence and correlates of multipartnered fertility among urban U.S. parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68(3), 718–732.Google Scholar
  14. Carlson, M. J., & Furstenberg, F. F. (2007). The consequences of multi-partnered fertility for parental resources and relationships. Princeton, NJ: Center for Research on Child Wellbeing Working Paper, Princeton University.Google Scholar
  15. Carlson, M., McLanahan, S. S., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2006). Do good partners make good parents? Relationship quality and parenting in two-parent families. Princeton, NJ: Center for Research on Child Wellbeing Working Paper.Google Scholar
  16. Carlson, M., McLanahan, S. S., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2008). Coparenting and nonresident fathers’ involvement with young children after a nonmarital birth. Demography, 45(2), 461–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carlson, M., McLanahan, S. S., & England, P. (2004). Union formation in fragile families. Demography, 41(2), 237–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. (2003). Introduction to the fragile families one-year public use data. Princeton, NJ: Bendheim Thoman Center for Child Wellbeing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. (2007). Parents’ relationship status five years after a non-marital birth. Fragile Families Research Brief, No. 39. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.Google Scholar
  20. Cherlin, A. J. (1992). Marriage, divorce, remarriage. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Cherlin, A. J., Burton, L., Hurt, T., & Purvine, D. (2004). The influence of physical and sexual abuse on marriage and cohabitation. American Sociological Review, 69, 768–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Classens, A. (2007). Gatekeeper moms and (un)involved dads: what happens after a breakup? In P. England & K. Edin (Eds.), Unmarried couples with children (pp. 204–227). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Coley, R. L., & Chase-Lansdale, L. P. (1999). Stability and change in paternal involvement among urban African American families. Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Devaney, B., & Dion, R. (2010). Oklahoma’s family expectations program. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.Google Scholar
  25. Edin, K., England, P., Fitzgibbons Shafer, E., & Reed, J. (2007). Forming fragile families, was the baby planned, unplanned, or in between? In P. England & K. Edin (Eds.), Unmarried couples with children (pp. 25–54). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  26. Edin, K., & Kefalas, M. (2005). Promises I can keep: why poor women put motherhood before marriage. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  27. Edin, K., Kefalas, M., & Reed, J. (2004). A peek inside the black box: what marriage means for poor unmarried parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 1007–1014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Edin, K., Nelson, T. J., & Paranal, R. (2004). Fatherhood and incarceration as potential turning points in the criminal careers of unskilled men. In M. Pattillo, D. F. Weiman, & B. Western (Eds.), Imprisoning America, the social effects of mass incarceration (pp. 46–75). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Edin, K., Tach, L., & Mincy, R. (2009). Claiming fatherhood, race and the dynamics of paternal involvement among unmarried men. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 621, 149–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ellwood, D. T., & Jencks, C. (2004). The uneven spread of single-parent families. In K. Neckerman (Ed.), Social inequality (pp. 3–77). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Finer, L. B., & Henshaw, S. K. (2006). Disparities in rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States, 1994 and 2001. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 38, 90–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Furstenberg, F. F. (1976). Unplanned parenthood: the social consequences of teenage childbearing. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  33. Furstenberg, F. F. (1995). Changing roles of fathers. In L. Chase-Landale & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Escape from poverty (pp. 189–210). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Furstenberg, F. F., & Cherlin, A. J. (1991). Divided families: what happens to children when parents part. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Furstenberg, F. F., & Harris, K. M. (1992). The disappearing American father? Divorce and the waning significance of biological parenthood. In S. South & S. Tolnay (Eds.), The changing American family sociological and demographic perspectives (pp. 197–223). Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
  36. Gibson-Davis, C. M. (2007). Expectations and the economic bar to marriage among low income couples. In P. England & K. Edin (Eds.), Unmarried couples with children (pp. 84–103). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  37. Gibson-Davis, C. M. (2009). Money, marriage, and children: testing the financial expectations and family formation theory. Journal of Marriage and Family, 7, 146–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gibson-Davis, C. M., Edin, K., & McLanahan, S. (2005). High hopes but even higher expectations: the retreat from marriage among low-income couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1301–1312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goffman, A. (2009). On the run: wanted men in a Philadelphia ghetto. American Sociological Review, 74(2), 339–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Goldstein, J. R., & Kenney, C. T. (2001). Marriage delayed or marriage foregone? New cohort forecasts of first marriage for US women. American Sociological Review, 66, 506–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Graefe, D. R., & Lichter, D. T. (1999). Life course transitions of American children: parental cohabitation, marriage, and single motherhood. Demography, 36, 205–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Graefe, D. R., & Lichter, D. T. (2007). When unwed mothers marry: the marital and cohabiting partners of midlife women. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 595–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Guzzo, K. B., & Furstenberg, F. F. (2007a). Multipartnered fertility among American men. Demography, 44, 583–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Guzzo, K. B., & Furstenberg, F. F. (2007b). Multipartnered fertility among young women with a nonmarital first birth: prevalence and risk factors. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 39, 29–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hamer, J. F. (2001). What it means to be daddy: fatherhood for Black men living away from their children. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., & Ventura, S. J. (2009). Births: Preliminary data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports, 57(12), 1–23.Google Scholar
  47. Harknett, K., & Knab, J. (2007). More kin, less support: multipartnered fertility and perceived support among mothers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 237–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Harknett, K., & McLanahan, S. (2004). Racial and ethnic differences in marriage after the birth of a child. American Sociological Review, 69(6), 790–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Heatherington, M. (2003). For better or worse: divorce reconsidered. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  50. Henshaw, S. K. (1998). Unintended pregnancy in the United States. Family Planning Perspectives, 30, 24–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Hill, H. D. (2007). Steppin’ out: infidelity and sexual jealousy among unmarried parents. In P. England & K. Edin (Eds.), Unmarried couples with children (pp. 104–132). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  52. Kearney, M. S., & Levine, P. B. (2009). Subsidized contraception, fertility, and sexual behavior. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 91(1), 137–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kreider, R. M., & Fields, J. (2005). Number, timing and duration of marriages and divorces, 2001. Current Population Reports, P70–97.Google Scholar
  54. Lichter, D. T., LeClere, F. B., & McLaughlin, D. K. (1991). Local marriage markets and the marital behavior of Black and White women. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 843–867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lichter, D. T., McLaughlin, D. K., Kephart, G., & Landry, D. J. (1992). Race and the retreat from marriage: a shortage of marriageable men? American Sociological Review, 57, 781–799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lichter, D. T., & Qian, Z. C. (2008). Serial cohabitation and the marital life course. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 861–878.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lloyd, K. M., & South, S. J. (1996). Contextual influences on young men’s transition to first marriage. Social Forces, 74, 1097–1118.Google Scholar
  58. Manlove, J., Logan, C., Ikramullah, E., & Holcombe, E. (2008). Factors associated with multiple-partner fertility among fathers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 536–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (1995). Why marry? Race and the transition to marriage among cohabitors. Demography, 32, 509–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (1999). New families and nonresident father-child visitation. Social Forces, 7, 87–116.Google Scholar
  61. Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (2000). “Swapping” families: serial parenting and economic support for children. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 111–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Manning, W. D., Smock, P. J., & Majumdar, D. (2004). The relative stability of cohabiting and marital unions for children. Population Research and Policy Review, 6, 135–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Marsiglio, W., & Cohan, M. (2000). Contextualizing father involvement and paternal influence: sociological and qualitative themes. Marriage & Family Review, 29(2/3), 75–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Martinez, G. M, Chandra, A., Abma, J. C., Jones, J., & Mosher, W. D. (2006). Fertility, contraception, and fatherhood: Data on men and women from cycle 6 (2002) of the National Survey of Family Growth. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics, 23, 26.Google Scholar
  65. McLanahan, S. (2004). Diverging Destinies, How children are faring under the second demographic transition. Demography, 41, 607–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. McLanahan, S., & Watson, T. (2009). Marriage meets the Jonses: relative income, identity, and marital status. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 14773. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  67. Mincy, R. B. (2002). Who should marry whom? Multiple partner fertility among new parents. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing Working Paper No. 02-03-FF. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.Google Scholar
  68. Musick, K. (2002). Planned and unplanned childbearing among unmarried women. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 915–929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. National Center for Health Statistics. (2002). Cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the United States. Vital and Health Statistics, 23, 22.Google Scholar
  70. Nelson, T.J. & Edin, K. (Forthcoming). Fragile fatherhood: What being a daddy means in the lives of low income unmarried men. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  71. Nelson T. J., Torres, K. C., & Edin, K. (2002). Not planned but not accidental: Low-income, non-custodial fathers’ participation in childbearing decisions. Presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting.Google Scholar
  72. Nurse, A. (2002). Fatherhood arrested: parenting from within the juvenile justice system. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Oppenheimer, V. (2000). The continuing importance of men’s economic position in marriage formation. In L. Waite (Ed.), The ties that bind: perspectives on marriage and cohabitation (pp. 283–301). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  74. Osborne, C. (2005). Marriage following the birth of a child for cohabiting and visiting parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 14–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Reed, J. (2007). Anatomy of a breakup: how and why do unmarried couples with children break up? In P. England & K. Edin (Eds.), Unmarried couples with children (pp. 133–156). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  76. Reed, J. (2008). A closer look at unmarried parenthood, relationship trajectories, meanings of family life, gender and culture. Doctoral Dissertation, Northwestern University.Google Scholar
  77. Roy, K. M. (2005). Transitions on the margins of work and family for low-income African American fathers. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 26, 77–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Roy, K. M. (2008). A life course perspective on fatherhood and family policies in the United States and South Africa. Fathering, 6(2), 92–112.Google Scholar
  79. Roy, K. M., & Dyson, O. L. (2007). Gatekeeping in context: Babymama drama and the involvement of incarcerated fathers. Fathering, 3, 289–310.Google Scholar
  80. Smeeding, T., Garfinkel, I., & Mincy, R. (2011). Young disadvantaged men, fathers, families, poverty, and policy: An introduction to the issues. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 635, 6–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Smock, P. J., & Manning, W. D. (1997). Cohabiting partners’ economic circumstances and marriage. Demography, 34, 331–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Smock, P. J., Manning, W. D., & Porter, M. (2005). Everything’s there except money: how economic factors shape the decision to marry among cohabiting couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 680–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Sobolewski, J. M., & King, V. (2005). The importance of the coparental relationship for nonresident fathers’ ties to children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1196–1212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Stewart, S. D., Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (2003). Union formation among men in the U.S.: Does having prior children matter? Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 90–104.Google Scholar
  85. Sullivan, M. L. (1989). Absent fathers in the inner city. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 501, 48–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Sullivan, M. L. (1993). Young fathers and parenting in two inner-city neighborhoods. In R. Lerman & T. Ooms (Eds.), Young unwed fathers: changing roles and emerging policies (pp. 52–73). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Sweeney, M. M. (2002). Two decades of family change: the shifting economic foundations of marriage. American Sociological Review, 67, 132–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Tach, L., & Edin, K. (2009). The structural and cultural determinants of union dissolution in fragile families. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. San Francisco, CA.Google Scholar
  89. Tach, L., Mincy, R., & Edin, K. (2010). Parenting as a package deal: relationships, fertility, and nonresident father involvement among unmarried parents. Demography, 47(1), 181–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Testa, M., Astone, N., Krogh, M., & Neckerman, K. (1989). Employment and marriage among inner-city fathers. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 501, 79–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Upchurch, D. M., Lillard, L. A., & Panis, C. (2001). The impact of nonmarital childbearing on subsequent marital formation and dissolution. In L. Wu & B. Wolfe (Eds.), Out of wedlock: causes and consequences of nonmarital fertility (pp. 344–380). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  92. Waller, M. R. (2002). My baby’s father: unwed parents and paternal responsibilities. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  93. Waller, M. R., & Swisher, R. (2006). Fathers’ risk factors in fragile families: implications for “healthy” relationships and father involvement. Social Problems, 53(3), 392–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Western, B., & Wildeman, C. (2009). The Black family and mass incarceration. Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science, 621, 221–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Wilson, M., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2001). Health status and behaviors of unwed fathers. Children and Youth Services Review, 23, 377–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Wilson, W. J., & Neckerman, K. A. (1986). Poverty and family structure: the widening gap between evidence and public policy issues. In S. H. Danziger & D. H. Weinberg (Eds.), Fighting poverty: what works, and what doesn’t (pp. 232–259). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  97. Wood, R. G., McConnell, S., Moore, Q., Clarkwest, A., & Hsueh, J. (2010). Strengthening unmarried parents’ relationships: early impacts of building strong families. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.Google Scholar
  98. Young, A. (2004). The minds of marginalized Black men: making sense of mobility, opportunity, and future life chances. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Kennedy SchoolHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars ProgramUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations