Rise in Illegitimacy

April 20, 1959

Report Outline
Illegitimacy and Public Assistance
Unmarried Mothers Yesterday and Today
Adoption of Illegitimate Children

Illegitimacy and Public Assistance

An Alarming Increase of pregnancies among unmarried girls and women is disturbing parents, social workers, and others and forcing earnest consideration of corrective measures. Two aspects of the question have aroused special concern: (1) A rise in the proportion of public assistance funds devoted to the support of illegitimate children; and (2) growth in the number of teen-age girls from presumably good homes who are becoming pregnant before marriage. In the first case, society is put in the position of appearing to subsidize immoral conduct; in the second, disciplinary controls traditionally applied by family and church appear to have lost the respect they once commanded.

Suggestions for dealing with the problem range all the way from more sex teaching in the schools to sterilization of unmarried mothers. Such measures, however, would not take into account many complex factors said to contribute to the rise of illegitimacy. In any event, the search for ways to check that rise goes on, accompanied by increasing efforts to see that unmarried mothers and their children have protective shelter and the benefit of numerous services aimed to help them lead socially acceptable lives in future.

Startling Increase in Out-of-Wedlock Births

The number of babies born out of wedlock in the United States has been increasing both numerically and in proportion to total births. The latest compilations by the U.S. Office of Vital Statistics recorded nearly 200,000 illegitimate births in the year 1956. The official figures concededly understate the situation. They do not include the number of illegitimate babies born dead; the number of pregnancies terminated before full term either from natural causes or by illegal abortion; children of married women by men not their husbands; babies born to girls falsely registering in hospitals as married women.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Marriage, Divorce, and Single Parents
Dec. 01, 2017  Future of Marriage
May 07, 2004  Future of Marriage
Jan. 19, 2001  Children and Divorce
Jun. 02, 2000  Fatherhood Movement
May 10, 1996  Marriage and Divorce
Jan. 13, 1995  Child Custody and Support
Jun. 07, 1991  Children and Divorce
Oct. 26, 1990  Child Support: Payments, Progress and Problems
Jul. 06, 1990  Are Americans Still in Love with Marriage?
Feb. 03, 1989  Joint Custody: Is it Good for the Children?
Mar. 12, 1982  Trends in Child Custody and Support
Jun. 03, 1977  The Changing American Family
Sep. 10, 1976  Single-Parent Families
Jan. 25, 1974  Child Support
Oct. 10, 1973  No-Fault Divorce
Oct. 06, 1971  Marriage: Changing Institution
Nov. 27, 1963  Divorce Law Reform
May 24, 1961  Mixed Marriage
Apr. 20, 1959  Rise in Illegitimacy
Feb. 02, 1949  Marriage and Divorce