JUST a few decades ago, getting pregnant when unmarried was one of the worst mistakes a girl could make. Now, a high school principal in a large metropolitan area of the United States says: "It's totally acceptable by the kids. It's not the stigma it once was." A social worker adds: "It's fashionable. The girl will announce her pregnancy.... It means you stand out. You're different. Many believe it's a way to instant adulthood. It gives some an identity." These girls and their boyfriends don't know the consequences they will bring on their offspring. And, in the Western world, there's another new trend. "Liberated" single women are starting to choose to have children out of wedlock. Many of these independent-minded women resent having a child's father around. They want to fulfill mothering roles without living with a husband or the child's father.
A False Tolerance
Tolerance and social acceptance of having babies out of wedlock are growing in many nations. It may be surprising, even shocking, for some to learn that in numerous areas or neighborhoods of cities in both the developed and developing world, more than half-in some nations more than 80 percent-of babies are born out of wedlock. Children are being conceived and born without the support and protection of parents married to each other. Most of these multiple millions of victims are guaranteed a grim and disadvantaged future. Why such widespread lack of concern for, or comprehension of, illegitimacy's devastating consequences? Social experts in many nations are calling the spiraling increase and tolerance of out-of-wedlock births a social catastrophe. It's time to face a critical reality that many do not want to squarely face. The proper begettal, birth and rearing of children is a serious matter. You can't afford not to fully comprehend the tragic consequences of illegitimacy to human and social development and make every effort to avoid repeating them.
Widespread Social Tragedy
This serious crisis of out-of-wed-lock births is impacting many nations of the world. In Brazil a few years ago a Brazilian medical official estimated that half of all babies born in the nation were illegitimate. He said: "We have few sex education courses.... Parents are too ignorant or embarrassed to talk to their children.... The results are zooming incidences of unwanted pregnancies, venereal disease, abortions, infections, sterility and unmarried mothers being thrown out by their families." High illegitimacy rates are at the root of several social problems in Caribbean, Central and South American nations. According to figures from the Chilean Ministry of Economics, almost 30 percent of children in the nation are born outside the bonds of a legitimate marriage. In Latin America the illegitimacy problem is quite diffuse. In some Latin nations more than 70 percent of live births are illegitimate. In others such births are a third to half that rate. In many Latin American nations, common-law marriages (couples not legally married though cohabiting) are widely accepted with nearly the moral equivalence of a legal marriage. A child born of such a marriage is often given similar status as one born of a legal marriage. But in other areas such a child is not. Urchins, the young children thrown out by parents to live by their wits in the streets, are often the fruit of illegitimacy. One Latin writer estimated that these homeless street children will soon represent nearly 5 percent of one country's population. Luis Felipe Lira, a Chilean sociologist, says though common-law marriages are widely accepted they are frequently brief. "This contributes to the weakening of the family when the father is not present in the home and does not carry out his duties and responsibilities." In some nations, the problem of high rates of out-of-wedlock births has long been endemic. But not in all nations. Illegitimacy rates in Asian and Arabic nations tend to be among the lowest. By contrast, in recent decades the social disease of illegitimacy has started to overwhelm many Western developed nations. In Britain, in 1983, almost one in six babies was born to an unmarried mother, according to the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys. That's five times as common as it was at the beginning of the century when there was no birth control pill and no legalized abortion. The British government agency projects that one third of Britain's babies will be born outside the bonds of marriage by the turn of the century. That means greatly increased burdens and strains on already beleaguered social welfare agencies and a much heavier tax load on British citizens. If this trend of illegitimacy continues, the projection is that babies born in wedlock in Britain will be a minority less than a generation after the next century begins. Most European nations are experiencing out-of-wedlock births as a rapidly rising portion of live births. According to Eurostat, the European Community's Luxembourg-based statistical office, divorce rates in the Community nations have increased threefold over the past two decades, and illegitimate birthrates have doubled (rising from 45 out-of-wedlock births per 1,000 births to 92 per 1,000 in 1981). Europe also is in the throes of the growing social tendency, especially in urban areas, for more and more couples to live together without marriage. In the city of Amsterdam, for instance, the percentage of children born out of wedlock increased from 5.6 percent of births in 1965 to 22.4 percent in 1982. According to Soviet statistics, high rates of abortion on one hand, and rapidly increasing out-of-wedlock births on the other, are pushing the Soviet Union into an acute demographic, social and health problem. Illegitimate births now account' for at least 20 percent of all Soviet births. Such births have doubled in less than 10 years in some urban cities. In some Siberian rural areas, 25 percent of all births are out of wedlock.
Staggering U.S. Rate
In the United States, out-of-wedlock births have reached avalanche proportions. Nationally, the illegitimacy rate tripled between 1960 and 1982 to 20 percent of births. That's one out of five. Yet this figure is modest compared to illegitimacy rates in many U.S. urban areas. Twenty years ago, 11 percent of New York City's births were to unmarried women. Last year, 37 percent, or more than one out of every three babies, born in the city were born out of wedlock. That ratio, triple what it was 20 years ago, alarms New York City planners. It means more thousands of individuals will be added to already overburdened welfare roles. But despite this social assistance, the majority of these families and children are destined to lead lives of poverty and destitution. These children will have an extremely hard time of properly educating themselves, of finding suitable work and assuming adult responsibilities. Many will be burdens on social agencies for the rest of their lives. And they, in turn, having no other role model, will likely perpetuate their experience in their children. Authorities in some states estimate each illegitimate child on their welfare roles drains more than $100,000 during the child's life on assistance. "It [illegitimacy] begins to transform the ambiance of the city itself," says Eleanor Holmes Norton, a former New York City Human Rights Commissioner and now a university law professor. "The city's most basic building-block institution, the family, is not functioning so as to guarantee a decent start in life to children." Some minority sections of New York City have illegitimacy rates much higher than city average. The central Harlem health district reports 80 percent of babies are being born out of wedlock. In the Bronx, the figure is more than 55 percent. Baltimore and Newark have even higher average city illegitimacy rates. In 1981, these two cities had the highest U.S. illegitimacy rates-both nearly 60 percent of births. In the United States, nearly one third of babies born to white teenagers and around 80 percent born to black teenagers were born out of wedlock.
The decline of the poorer American black family because of family breakdown, economic discrimination and illegitimacy is particularly severe. The Plain Truth must address this serious crisis in an effort to help young black men and women, and others of all backgrounds, avoid repeating serious mistakes. This formerly taboo subject of high illegitimacy rates among blacks is now being openly addressed in forums by black leaders. "It's the most serious long-term crisis in the black community in my judgment," said one welfare leader. Divorce, desertion and illegitimacy have hit this segment of society hard. In 1940, around 15 percent of black children were born out of wedlock. In 1965, the figure was 24 percent. Today 56 percent of black children are born out of wedlock. Nearly half, 47 percent, of black families are headed by women without husbands. In Washington, D.C., the illegitimacy figure for blacks is 65 percent; in Chicago, it is 70 percent. Says New York's former Commissioner Eleanor Norton: "What kind of fresh start can there be for us when half the next generation will consist of children who were raised by children. These youngsters, who should be our hope for the future, are virtually guaranteed to grow up with problems of the most severe kind.... They are the ones most likely to become truants and jobless, to be engaged in violent crime. And yet we are scarcely paying attention to the problem." To have jobs for young adults, every ' city has to have a family institution that prepares people for education and for these jobs. Says Mrs. Norton, "There's no way a city can maintain its viability if the basic sub-unit, the family, is not functioning at a standard level." "We've got to make kids understand the disastrous social and economic consequences of early childbearing," says Blanche Bernstein, former administrator of New York City's Human Resources Administration. She emphasized that 40 percent of families in the United States headed by women are classified as poor, while only 7 percent of intact families-those with two parents- are so classified. Poverty can have a variety of causes. But one cannot fully understand poverty in the United States and many other areas of the world unless one faces the great part played by sexual immorality, which undermines families before they've even begun!
The story of many out-of-wedlock births follows a familiar script: A girl desires attention, fears losing a boyfriend, or wants to escape an unhappy home or personal situation; she meets a fellow, is induced to get sexually involved and often unexpectedly discovers she has become pregnant. She then is forced to drop out of school (80 percent of girls in the United States do). The fathering male rejects responsibility for the baby or the mother (around 90 percent of unwed teenage fathers do). The pregnant female realizes the father is too immature to be a stable husband and provider. Without a working husband to provide income and share responsibility, the child-mother is trapped at home with her baby. She generally cannot return to school. She cannot readily learn a skill. So she turns to welfare for support. A few turn to prostitution. Others will live with any man who provides partial assistance.. Thus for millions of unwed mothers and their illegitimate offspring begins a vicious, self-perpetuating poverty cycle-a life of social dependency, lack of proper education, lack of social progress and little hope for anything better. Some young women and fathers do feel obligated to marry for the sake of the baby. But often they are immature and ill-prepared for marital and family responsibilities. The young man may have to curtail his education and get a fulltime job. Soon the young father or mother starts to feel trapped by the situation. Many become resentful at losing their youthful fun, opportunities and freedom. Tensions and frustrations cause frequent family strife. Divorce splits a high percentage of these forced marriages. Teenagers are three times more likely to break up than couples married in their 20s.
Destruction of the Family
The undermining of the family unit as a result of rapid acceptance of permissive sexual behavior is only one of a growing list of evils that nations and communities now have to contend with. Sexual permissiveness has forced governments to greatly expand their welfare systems. Through taxation every citizen is forced to support sexual indiscretion. Government assistance is truly needed to help persons fallen into serious deprivations or who have made mistakes. But many persons take continuous advantage of government help. In sexually permissive social climates most feel they don't need to change their loose ways of living. Instead welfare is used as a way to gain independence and set up a living at public expense. The more illegitimate children a mother has the more public money she receives. Socially supported promiscuity has created the tragic state of mind that accepts sometimes two or three generations born out of wedlock without the least concern for the serious and damaging effects loose sexual practices create for offspring and society. Generations of families now exist that have known only this way of thinking and living.
Phantom Role Models
For proper development a child ideally needs the role models of both a loving, caring father and mother. Such children do better in all areas of life. Children need supportive two-parent families and intimate caring and teaching. When these children grow up they are much better prepared to properly educate and rear their children. Where are the role models for many illegitimate children? In whole sections of many cities children are being raised by unmarried women with phantom fathers. No solid, stable male is available to provide an example of caring, strength, courage, self-discipline and inspiration. These children have no male role models to identify with except drifting, jobless, unstable men and hustlers on the street. George Steinlieb, director of the Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research, says there is a definite linkage between juvenile delinquency and children raised without fathers. In schools, these children cause significantly more discipline problems. Widespread sexual activity outside of marriage has fueled another growing social evil. Many women who have allowed themselves to sexually indulge, in desperation seek abortions-the killing of the helpless fetuses in the womb. In the United States, almost 75 percent of abortions are obtained by unmarried women. Also in the United States, 90 percent of unmarried teenage mothers now choose to keep their babies-compared to a decade ago when 90 percent surrendered them for adoption. For the future this means many of these children will only know a socially undesirable role model of human conduct. That is, unless such parents admit their mistakes and change their ways and values of living. In some nations there is no great social stigma in being illegitimate because so many others are also. But in other nations, illegitimate children-especially those of mixed blood, or the result of occupation forces-face tremendous social difficulties and ostracism. A fearsome price is being paid in many nations for breaking or ignoring God's immutable spiritual laws governing sex, marriage and the family. It's time for some bold speaking about truly right and wholesome masculine and feminine responsibility and behavior concerning sex and marriage!
As God Sees It
Mankind long ago jumped the track. Human civilizations and individuals have rejected, repudiated or ignored God's instructions on how to live. Many have thought they could carelessly flaunt God's laws on sex. But God's laws are not mocked! Hear the writings of Scripture the Creator has recorded for all humanity: "... if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments... all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you.... Blessed shall you be in the city.... Blessed shall be the fruit of your body.... Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out" (Deut. 28:1-4, 6, Revised Authorized Version throughout except where noted). But, if nations or individuals wouldn't obey, "it shall come to pass... that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country.... Cursed shall be the fruit of your body... " (verses 15-16, 18). Illegitimacy is not a problem of anyone race or nation. It's a multinational curse! In many societies, having sex outside of marriage is the vogue. "Be sexy." Be the "macho man." "If you love me, you will!" Many young men and women have been led to flaunt sexiness to be popular. Many women fear losing a boyfriend unless they give in to male sexual demands. Young men pressure each other to "show their manhood" and prey on women's weakness and desire for attention, love and a home. They'll promise women anything. If you're caught up in these sins and ways of thinking, God thunders to you: "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11). This is not true maturity or manhood in God's sight! How does God look at the young man who has fathered a child out of wedlock? "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Tim. 5:8). To the married God says, "You shall not commit adultery" (Ex. 20:14). To all he says, "Flee fornication" (I Cor. 6:18, A.V.). If any decide they can flaunt those commands, they're kidding themselves. Whether people break God's laws through ignorance, or stubbornness, or peer pressure, they undermine and damage their own lives and futures and that of their children and families! Moreover, they will morally damage and weaken their own race and nation! Maybe they don't care, but they and you should! An alarmed and wise black columnist in a Midwest newspaper, The Detroit News, wrote an astute warning to all: "If the strength of a race depends on the strength of its families, then the black race is getting weaker every year.... Black leadership must convince black teenagers that virginity and responsible sexual behavior are vital to their education and future financial security."
True Manhood and Womanhood
God long ago decreed what is required for stable family life and successful human development: "[True] love does no harm to a neighbor... " (Rom. 13:10). A truly masculine man and leader in God's sight is a man knowledgeable and concerned for the protection and well-being of his family, progeny and society. He will not fornicate. He will not engender children out of wedlock. Instead he will prepare himself educationally and with skills to be able to support a wife and family. He will do all that is in his power to be a responsible provider. He will strive to be a right teacher and example to his wife and children. The human sex drive can be controlled. Too many have all kinds of excuses for unbridling their lusts. Yes, sex is a drive. It should be a motivating factor to motivate a young man and woman to want to develop their minds, bodies and abilities so they can, if possible, establish a right and sound marriage and home. Unmarried women don't have to "give in." They are to obey and trust in God. If any diligently obey God, he promises to provide every genuine need (Phil. 4:19). One little word can work wonders in avoiding a multiplicity of fears, problems and regrets. The word is No! No man who truly loves and respects a woman would ever pressure her on the point. If you have made mistakes and become confused about sex, change your values. Determine not to sin anymore. Don't make the mistake of reasoning that contraceptives make unmarried sex safe. There are more contraceptives available than ever and illegitimacy still soars! Millions of people don't use contraceptives. And many who say they do really don't. Contraceptives fail in the hands of people looking for quick sexual excitement because they use them improperly, or justly get caught unprepared. Your Creator has commanded that sex relations are for marriage by a mature man and woman dedicated and committed to each other as a new family unit (Gen. 2:24). The tragic evils of illegitimacy have been made clear to you. If you love people, you will resist the permissive tide. You will do what God commands.
Health Damages of Too Early Sex
Childbearing is becoming increasingly concentrated among teenage mothers in many nations. In the United States more than 50 percent of out-of-wedlock births are to women less than 20 years of age. Too early pregnancy and/or illegitimacy greatly impact health and social problems. A direct connection between early coitus and cervical cancer has been noted by physicians since the turn of the century. It has been determined that a woman having multiple sex partners during the 15-to 17-year-old age bracket increases the risk of having cervical cancer. Other serious consequences of sexual permissiveness are sexually transmitted diseases and the serious health problems they cause. Many thousands of individuals, mostly young persons, are maimed, injured or sterilized each year by these diseases, especially by syphilis, gonorrhea and herpes. These diseases infect fetuses or newborn infants, causing blindness, deafness, brain or nervous system damage and death. A girl's nutritional requirements are also greatest in her teenage years. A young teenage mother's own growth needs compete with the fetus for whatever nutrition is available. Health authorities warn that many teenage mothers have poor nutritional habits, aggravating the problem even more. As a consequence there is an elevated risk of brain and neurological disorders in babies of teenage mothers. Such occurrences in these mothers are estimated to be twice that of children born to mothers more than 20. Prematurity and low birth weight are also more frequent among babies of teenage mothers. These conditions reduce an infant's resistance to infection and, in turn, cause more frequent infant illnesses and deaths. Teen mothers also have increased birth delivery problem. A baby born to a mother under the age of 16 is three times more likely to die in the first year of life than a baby born to a woman in her 20s, according to U.S. government health statistics. The physical and emotional immaturity of teenage mothers often means they are less likely to seek early prenatal care. All of these problems contribute to higher rates of defective births that weaken family lines. "Young mothers are not producing healthy babies," said Dr. Joan Guildemeister, a professor of human development at Howard University in Washington, D.C. "We are seeing a generation of kids starting with many strikes against them." Some unmarried teenage girls have idealized that a baby will give them the love and affection they lack in life. But the reality is rarely as bright as they imagine. Many adolescent girls have little understanding of normal infant behavior and needs. They have little tolerance for frustration or the demands little children make. The consequence, report health authorities, is that many young mothers mistreat a baby out of sheer ignorance or frustration. Child abuse and neglect are frequent among them.