• Welcome to The Fedora Lounge!

Golden Era Teenage Moms

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by Atticus Finch, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. I often read (perhaps) wistful posts on the Lounge about how life in the Golden Era was better than it is in modern times, or conversely stated, how society has declined since the Golden Era. The posts frequently support their hypothesis with examples such as an increasing crime rate (it hasn't), or an increased divorce rate (not sure that's bad), or an ever increasing teenage birth rate. Well, to be honest, I would have agreed about the teenage birthrate. I would have bet anything that teenage birth rate is higher today than ever before. It sure seems like our courts are now full of teenage moms.

    But then I read this article...


  2. Most of the teenage moms in the Era were married. It wasn't considered at all unusual for a girl to marry right out of high school, and it was very common for them to bear their first child at 18 or 19. I think it's probably safe to say the majority of teen mothers today are not married -- if you were to look at the rate of *illegitimate* teen births from the era, I'd expect it to be a good deal lower than that of today.

    I just finished looking thru the 1940 census records from my home town. There were quite a few households shown with 18-19 year old mothers listed, but in each case they were married, with the husband either their own age or a few years older. Nothing unusual about that at all. (And interestingly, all of them who were living in town when I was growing up were still married.)
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  3. Flat Foot Floey

    Flat Foot Floey My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Because of the polictics banned rule I don't argue if they have a better "right" to be pregnant. :eusa_doh:
    Regardless ...marriage doesn't solve all problems. I think married teenage moms are also pretty stressed but hopefully they can share the work and responsibilty with their husband. Maybe not. Some are mature (psychologically speaking) at a younger age...some are not. It doesn't depend on the marriage.
  4. I think the main difference is one of expectations. In 1940 there was no expectation of college for the average American 18 year old -- less than five percent of the population had a degree, and for the overwhelming majority of 18 year olds, high school was the end of their formal education. It was time to move on to the next phase of life, early adulthood -- and marriage and family were considered a definitive aspect of that. Without getting into the pros or cons of that point of view compared to today, I think it's disingenuous to compare the teen birth rate then with what it is today as though the circumstances were the same. It was an entirely different culture, in no way comparable to today's.
  5. You make an excellent point. I wonder if this was taken into account when the stats were complied and compared. In other words, I wonder if married teenagers with children were counted when computing the teenage birth rate in 1940...or now, for that matter. The article doesn't say, but I'll bet they were and are.

  6. I can't seem to find any hard statistics for illegitimate teen births in 1940, but as of 1960, they were about 15 percent of the total teenage birth rate (the total rate of illegitimate births in 1960 was about 5 percent, which does indicate that more teens were "getting in trouble" than one might have expected). Currently, 88 percent of all births between 15 and 19 are outside of wedlock.
  7. I just uncovered a little more information. In 1940, the unwed birth rate (among all women) was 3.8%. Today it is 41%. Again, not saying that having younguns out of wedlock is bad or good, but one would certainly expect a proportional rise in the unwed teenage birth rate. This is especially true when one considers that most states require parental consent for a child of less than 18 years to wed.

  8. Gene

    Gene Practically Family

    I just did a very long paper on teenage sexuality in the 1950s, so I don't really want to write it again, but here is one of my references.

  9. I think I had the same thought some of y'all had when I saw that statistic. Did it account for the large number of couples that were married and having their first child when they were 18 or 19? My feet hit the ground two months (1963) before my mom turned 20, so technically she was teenage mother. BUT, she was married and had been working for several years. It's possible I may have technically arrived a month or two early :).

    I did ask her about it. Mainly because I had a hard time keeping a houseplant alive when I was 20. And it was doubly strange because college would have been an option-her dad would have paid for it without complaint. She wasn't interested. She'd worked part-time as a bookkeeper since she was 15, and wanted to be a secretary. All of her classmates were working and getting married- it was just what she expected to do. She was adamant that in small-town Kentucky, she just didn't have a picture of her life being any different.

    I think we witnessed a historical "blip" in teen parents. Her parents had their first child in their late 20's. I gathered from my grandmother that grandaddy didn't expect to marry until he could adequately support a family. I don't know how common an attitude that was prior to 1946, but I think by the late 40s-60s, there was more of an attitude of "we'll scrape by", maybe because it was (barely) possible for a young family to support itself. It's not impossible to do that now, but like getting married young in 1927, it's probably still not the best plan for most (but not everybody).

    It was definitely a bad idea for her. Although it was nothing like the "bad example" in that film clip! Ewww. But that WAS the point, wasn't it?
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2012
  10. I think a lot depended on where you lived. Families in farm country depended on having lots of kids around to work in the fields and such -- and it was very important to them, therefore, that the girls get married and start bearing children as soon as was feasible. That meant a lot of teenage marriages.

    There was a definite dip in both the marriage and birthrates during the depression, and it didn't really bounce back until after the war -- and coincidental with that, the average age of marriage dropped sharply as did the percentage of people of all ages remaining single. There's an interesting Government study on family composition between 1940 and 1957 here.

    One of the most interesting items to be found in that study has to do with the divorce rate -- which reached what was then an all time peak of about 18 per 1000 in 1946, with the collapse of many hasty wartime marriages, and then dropped back by more than half that figure by the mid-fifties.
  11. Aristaeus

    Aristaeus A-List Customer

    Did you take into account the abortion rate today as compared to the Golden Era? I think that would skewer the numbers a bit.

Share This Page