- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fewer men had their first-born child out-of-wedlock in the 2000s, compared to the two previous decades, a new federal report said on Thursday.

Moreover, first-time unwed fathers in the 2000s were more likely to be in a cohabiting union than those in the 1980s.

These and other findings about unwed first-time fathers were in a National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) report.

This report on fathers is intended to provide “a different picture” of nonmarital births, said NCHS researcher and author Gladys M. Martinez.

It also attempts to fill a knowledge gap: There is extensive information about first-time unwed mothers because that is usually captured on birth certificates, but details about unwed fathers are often missing, Ms. Martinez said.

By examining years of the National Survey of Family Growth — which now asks men about their childbearing — Ms. Martinez was able to estimate that in the 2000s, 36 percent of men who had a first birth were not married.

This was much lower than the 42 percent of nonmarital births to men seen in the 1980s.

In addition, more first-time single dads were in cohabiting relationships: In the 1980s, only 19 percent of the unwed fathers were living with the mother of their child. But by the 2000s, this had risen significantly to 24 percent.

The NCHS doesn’t offer explanations for trends, but researchers study “first-birth” data because it has implications for the U.S. population structure and can be predictive of future births.

Other researchers have found that people delay or prevent first births by intentionally avoiding sexual intercourse, using contraception more efficiently when they have sex, and limiting their number of sex partners.

Another major finding in the NCHS report was that unwed first-time fathers were now more likely to be older.

In the 1980s, almost all the single dads with one child — around 92 percent — were under age 25, the NCHS report said.

By the 2000s, this fell to 66 percent.

This is because a far larger portion — 33 percent — of single fathers were in the oldest age range of 25 to 44, Ms. Martinez said. In the 1980s, only 8 percent of unwed first-time fathers were in that older age range.

In fact, the percent of nonmarital first births to teen fathers fell by almost half — from 42 percent of births in the 1980s to just 23 percent by the 2000s.

That is “terrific” news, said Sarah Brown, who is retiring soon as the chief executive of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

There is still much to learn — from men — about how to reach teenage and young males on this issue, she said. While there are many excellent pregnancy-prevention programs, many are written for women, by women, and it’s not enough to put these “pink programs on blue paper” to reach the men.

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