How Character, Income and Education Impact Your Choices – And Your Success

I’m fascinated by social science, particularly as it explains how you can make smarter choices that lead to better life outcomes. I’ve written extensively about the proven virtues of waiting to have sex, taking a longer time to get married, and not having kids out of wedlock. This is not to say that having sex on a first date, getting married in one year, or having children without a husband is a guarantee of failure (it’s not!), but rather that, such choices, on the whole, produce worse outcomes.

The through-line between these questionable choices is instant gratification. Studies since the Stanford marshmallow experiment have shown that people with the ability to delay gratification (study instead of party, abstain from sex or wear condoms, not abuse drugs or alcohol), are more successful in life. Which shouldn’t be too surprising.

“In a 2014 paper, “The Character Factor: Measures and Impact of Drive and Prudence,” Richard Reeves and two co-authors, Kimberly Howard and Joanna Venator, focus on what they call “performance character strengths” and the crucial role played by noncognitive skills in educational attainment, employment and earned income. These character strengths — “perseverance, industriousness, grit, resilience, curiosity, application” and “self-control, future orientation, self-discipline, impulse control, delay of gratification” — make significant contributions to success in adulthood and upward mobility.”

I find it interesting to overlay these principles onto dating/relationship behavior. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the more resources you have, the more you’re trained in success, the more likely you are to be successful? Sure enough, that’s what Reeves finds.

People with the ability to delay gratification (study instead of party, abstain from sex or wear condoms, not abuse drugs or alcohol), are more successful in life.

“Noncognitive skill levels rose significantly not only as family income grew but also as the mother’s education level rose. In addition, children in continuously married two-parent families did better than children with single parents.”

People who come from money and reached higher levels of education ALSO had more self-control, resilience, and perseverance. This is not a slam on blue collar workers with high school educations. This is an acknowledgement that the best predictor of your future success was the money and education of the family you were born into. The circumstances of your birth impact everything downstream, including whether you marry, stay married and have successful children (educated, employed, non violent, etc).

In a 2011 paper, “The American Family in Black and White,” James Heckman, Nobel Laureate argues that “a key factor in determining a child’s future prospects is whether he or she grows up in a one- or two-parent family, a gap that has become apparent “between the environments of children of more educated women and the environments of children of less educated women.”

Fewer than 10 percent of women with college degrees in 2011 bore children outside of marriage, Heckman writes. They marry later and marry more educated men. They work more. They have more resources, have fewer children, and provide much richer child rearing environments that produce dramatic differences in a child’s vocabulary, intellectual performance, nurturance, and discipline. These advantages are especially pronounced for children of two-parent stable marriages. Children of such marriages appear to be at a major advantage compared to children from other unions.

I think it’s extremely important to acknowledge this again and again.

50% of children born to 20-30 year olds are born to women without husbands. No one is shaming them. No one is saying they shouldn’t bear children. No one is saying they don’t have the right to choose life instead of having an abortion. No one is saying that they were impregnated by good men who want to be fathers. But let’s be crystal clear about this: children of single mothers struggle more than children with two parents. Uneducated parents without money have uneducated children without money.

“The result is a vicious circle: family disruption perpetuates disadvantage by creating barriers to the development of cognitive and noncognitive skills, which in turn sharply reduces access to college. The lack of higher education decreases life chances, including the likelihood of achieving adequate material resources and a stable family structure for the next generation. There is substantial data describing this vicious circle.

Let’s be crystal clear about this: children of single mothers struggle more than children with two parents.

A 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis of marital status for men and women at the age of 46 found that the divorce rate for those with only a high school diploma, 49 percent, is twice that of college graduates, 23.7 percent. The less well educated marry younger, 24.8 years, than college grads, 27.2 years… By 1980 the nonmarital birthrate for college-educated women was 5 percent; it grew to 11 percent in 2013. For women with high school diplomas, it grew from 24 percent in 1980 to 58 percent in 2013.”

I reiterate – this is not an attack on single mothers. I don’t know one single mother who would give her children back after the fact. This is a boldface plea to women who are considering becoming single mothers – either accidentally at 25 or on purpose at age 38 – to reconsider and prioritize finding love first. It’ll be better for you and better for your family as well.

The original NY Times article can be read here. Your thoughts, as always, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Stacy

    Key: children of two parent STABLE marriages. Obviously that is the crème de la crème.

    But I will say that single mother/fatherhood is the winner up IF two parents are married but do not have a good marriage. Trust me, I am talking from experience here. I did MUCH better after my parents were divorced because they used to fight all the time…it was terrible. So while they were married and financially okay, it was horrible growing up with that. Also, let’s not forget that single parenthood does not automatically mean poor and unstable especially in this day and age. I am not saying that is what you are saying Evan, but for some reason when people hear single parent, a bunch of stereotypes come to mind.

    I am a divorced parent (so single mother). Yet, I have a Masters degree, my kids are in a good school system and are doing well, and they are well adjusted and happy. Also, the father is still involved and they see him regularly. I guarantee that my kids are wayyyy better off than if I was still married to my ex husband.

    1. 1.1
      ACOD

      Read Judith Wallerstein’s The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.   Children of divorce don’t feel the full effect of their parents’ divorce until they are navigating their own adult relationships.    You might be happier not being married to your ex-husband but your children have suffered and will continue to suffer because of you and your husband’s choices.

      1. 1.1.1
        ScottH

        Sometimes divorce is the lesser of two evils.  Staying in a high conflict marriage for the sake of the kids isn’t always the best choice and if your partner refuses to come to the table and talk, your decision is made for you.  I’m not disagreeing that divorce is awful for the kids; it most certainly is.  I’m just saying that a terrible marriage can be worse.  I’ve been in that position.

      2. 1.1.2
        Stacy

        @ACOD

        Sweeping generalizations much? Does your generalization also include people who are still married but their nannies have raised their children? Does your generalization include people who are still married but fight and argue all the time? Does your generalization include people who are still married but aren’t healthy in some capacity? Does your generalization include people who are still married, healthy, but work so much that they barely have time for their kids?

        I thank God that your generalization is largely based on ignorant opinion. When I divorced, my kids were 2 and 3 and don’t even remember. ALL they know is that mom is happy, dad is happy and we are both HEAVILY involved in our kids’ lives, we get along very well, and they can call each of us for anything/any issue.  Like I said earlier, when my mom and dad WERE married, I was miserable and unhappy for a certain period as a child UNTIL they got divorced.

        In conclusion, most of us do not have a perfect life. If you have had this, well congratulations.:)  I have a friend who had MARRIED parents (they were fairly good parents at least to the outside world and the man is still an asset to their community) and their beloved son overdosed on drugs and is now dead.  Life is not simple. And because it does not always turn out exactly like the perfect prototype does NOT mean that people /children can’t turn out pretty damn good with the circumstances we are all dealt with.

  2. 2
    Malika

    Happy stable parents produce happy stable children, by and large. Whether they are still together or harmoniously coparenting, the benefits are substantial. You can pretty much tell within my group of friends who had a stable upbringing and who didn’t.

    We all love the stories of plucky children who beat the odds and turn out to be upstanding members of society even though their background provided little guidance or nurturing. Yet these stories are really exceptions. For myself, i had two loving but unstable parents who unfortunately did not have the emotional bandwidth to provide a secure upbringing. My twenties were spent in a lot of therapy sessions, cleaning up a lot of mess and confusion. While my peers were forging careers and building relationships and families, i was barely keeping my head above water and replicating the family situation by choosing crumbs from eu or plain uninterested men. It’s only now i get to feel as if i am catching up, and while the experiences have given me an empathy overflow, stability is still a fragile concept and children are out of the question, as i don’t want to give them the disfunctional upbringing i had.

    Choose the man or woman who is demonstrative and consistent. Say sayonara to crumbs and inconsistent shenanigans. Give the relationship time to develop organically, so you lnow what you are getting into. Not only for your wellbeing, but for the happiness of your future children.

  3. 3
    Mrs Happy

    Evan,

    I think single women who haven’t had children by 38 but want children, should prioritise getting pregnant, over dating.  For such a woman, the choice may be either being childless forever, or becoming a single mother, and the latter is preferable for a woman who really wants a child. Such a woman does not always have enough fertile time left, to prioritise finding romantic love.

    1. 3.1
      Helene

      May be preferable for the woman, but is is preferable for the child??! I have never been able to understand anyone bringing a child into the world who does not have the practical, emotional and financial resources to give them a proper start in life. Kids are not a lifestyle accessory….

      1. 3.1.1
        KK

        I feel the same way, Helene.

      2. 3.1.2
        Mrs Happy

        Dear Helene,

        1. it is preferable for a child to be born to a single mother, than not to live at all, in most instances. Ask almost anyone whether they would prefer to have been born than not.

        2. I don’t know anyone who thinks children are a lifestyle accessory.

        3. The drive to reproduce is strong in most living things, including female humans in their 30’s. An animal or human who has a desire to reproduce will try to do so. Worldwide, most parents do not ensure they’ve adequate resources before reproducing. Your idea of “a proper start in life” likely encompasses more resources than 99% of the humans who have lived, ever imagined necessary.

        1. Yet Another Guy

          A child needs a mother and a father.  Fathers play a critical role in child development.

        2. KK

          Mrs. Happy,

          “I don’t know anyone who thinks children are a lifestyle accessory”.

          You’d be surprised.

          I have a single, never married friend who wants to get married but it hasn’t happened yet. Several years ago, she sold her 2 bedroom condo and bought a 4 bedroom house with a large, oversized yard. Around this same time, she started to seriously contemplate adoption. She came to the conclusion she would like an older child, maybe 10 or 12 years old. One of the reasons an older child was appealing to her is that they would be more self sufficient and that she wouldn’t have to deal with baby sitting / child care.

          One day she was complaining how she hated coming home to an empty house. I suggested getting a dog. To my surprise, she said she didn’t feel it would be fair to leave a dog all alone for 10+ hours a day. Lol. This is the same person who would be perfectly okay with a child staying at home alone (10+ hours) all day long every summer and several hours alone during the school year.

        3. GoWiththeFlow

          KK,

          Good grief!  If your friend thinks adopting a 10-12 year old will be easy-peasy, and they can be “self sufficient” and left alone without adult supervision, she clearly hasn’t done her homework.  I would never tell anyone not to adopt an older child, I know several families who have, but you have to go in it with your eyes wide open.  Childhood trauma and neglect have life log effects.  And heck, I wouldn’t leave any 10-12 year old alone for extended periods of time regardless of whether there are underlying issues or not.

        4. KK

          Hi GWTF,

          You’re absolutely right. She hasn’t done her homework. She is a dear friend that I absolutely adore, but she is utterly clueless about the responsibility involved with raising children; much less an older child that would need therapy and additional attention, not less.

          Sadly enough, I have seen this first hand. I have an uncle who married a lady who couldn’t conceive. They adopted an 11 year old boy that had been severely abused, physically and mentally, by his birth mother until he was put in foster care at the age of three.  They were told he had severe behavioral issues, abandonment issues, and a fear and mistrust of women. Knowing all this, she insisted on moving forward with the adoption and my idiotic uncle went along with it to appease her.

          It was a disaster. In three years, she abandoned both the child and my uncle. My uncle provided for him but did nothing for him in terms of making him go to counseling or setting any kind of house rules or boundaries. He eventually ran away and started getting into trouble, was in and out of jail, and last I heard, ended up in prison for armed robbery.

        5. Helene

          “Worldwide, most parents do not ensure they’ve adequate resources before reproducing.” – Yeah, I’ve noticed…. cue hindreds of thousands of malnourished/unwanted/abused/poorly educated children all over the planet…. If there is one thing the world does not need its more people, so in this context it seems cruel and irresponsible to bring children into the world if you do not have the resources to look after them.

    2. 3.2
      Stacy

      @Mrs Happy

      Well, call be the biggest bitch for saying this but, I believe that some people should not have children. Our foster system is overflowing with ‘unwanted’ kids. My mother works in a hospital for kids with mental issues and she sees kids coming in at as young as five who were severely sexually assaulted, etc.  My heart breaks just thinking about it…

      So no, I dont think that mere desire and ability (to make a kid) means that a kid should be made.  There are children that are abused, starving, sexually abused, thrown away, killed – mainly coming from unstable homes created by people who had no business procreating.

      Back to your point: parenting is tough. Someone CHOOSING to have a child with no father imo is very very selfish (or at least a father figure at bare minimum).  Everyone cant get everything he/she wants and because one has the desire to do it doesn’t mean that one should go ahead and do it. There is a reason why kids are born by both a man and a woman in the first place.

      1. 3.2.1
        KK

        @Stacy,

        Bitch # 2 in complete agreement here. : )

      2. 3.2.2
        Mrs Happy

        Dear Stacy,

        fostering or adopting a child is likely to be much harder work, because the child will be more likely to have impairments/vulnerabilities, than your own biological offspring, for most capable healthy people – there are reasons those children are not living with their biological relatives. And most people want to parent their own DNA; it’s a biological drive. So yes there are numerous “unwanted” kids, but that doesn’t mean women aged 38 without a partner should take on that burden, instead of reproducing biologically.

        Dear Helene,

        most people in developing nations have children so the children can take care of them, in their old age. There is no pension or welfare system, and no wealth. You have kids so when you are 40-50 and dying of AIDS or whatever, there is someone to house and feed you. Having adequate resources to bring up children is a pipe dream for most people, now and historically.

        Dear Yet Another Guy,

        Of course a child is advantaged if a good father is present, but that’s not the choice for a single 38 year old woman. The choice is, be a single mother, or not have a baby.

         

        I have personally won the jackpot – born into a 1st world country, + at a time when females were deemed able to access education and training, good health, happiness, fantastic partner, kids, extensive education, great career, high earnings, wealth. But it is not right to say that only people with these ducks in a row should have children. The world is made up of many more cultures and ways of life, than yours and mine.

        1. Stacy

          @MrsHappy

          Your points are well accepted by me and I agree that there are people who have no options (3rd world country, bad living conditions, children become a necessity for farming/labor/taking care of the old, etc.). I was not referring to people in those conditions. My post was focused on those who have the opportunities and can intentionally make better choices.

          And I am not saying a woman of 38 who has no partner is not supposed to have a child if she wants to. What I am saying is that it is inherently selfish to have children based on just your need of fulfillment and not think about the experiences/natural wants and desires of that child and his needs.  MOST people desire to connect to the TWO parents who had them. To bring a child into this world knowing that the kid will be fatherless from the beginning is a disadvantage for the child. In addition, unless the woman is very well off, to bring a child into this world where you will have to go it alone and be stretched really thin with said child is not the best way to go.  And as a mother, one has to decide if she can live with that. So yeah, I still think it’s unwise.

  4. 4
    Morgan

    The thing about stats is that there are multiple variables that can change the conclusions one can draw from them. These aren’t always apparent to the casual observer or even the researchers themselves.  One critical varable is the objectivity of the researchers. No matter how pure their intentions, researchers are human and therefore subject to their own biases.

    Another variable is the subjects, their geographical locations, their upbringing, their exeriences, and, in the case of the study highlighted in this article, the quality of their marriages or single-parenting skills.

    Another variable is the society in which a study takes place. Different societies have different value systems in place. Also, there may be social structures that benefit one group to the detriment of another. Such inequities would impart advantages or disadvantages to different groups in an unbalanced way, which would, in turn, affect outcomes the offspring of these groups experience.

    Another crucial factor that relates to the title of this article is how one defines success. Success is a subjective term, not a quantitative one.

    1. 4.1
      Stacy

      @Morgan

      I am loving your response.

    2. 4.2
      KK

      Agreed, Morgan. Common sense would tell you that OVERALL, children from two parent families are better of than children from single parent families. However, no distinction is made between single mothers and divorced mothers. BIG DIFFERENCE! Single mother could mean welfare mom. Single mother could also mean mom who got divorced when her youngest child was 16 and living in an affluent neighborhood. Too many factors are left out to make those statistics meaningful or give a more accurate picture of what’s really going on.

      1. 4.2.1
        Morgan

        KK

        A mother who chooses to stay home, rather than stay employed, so she can be available as much possible during her children’s formative years and who uses all available resources to give them a quality education — even it means spending extra hours learning how she can do so and spending money so her children can participate in cultural and educational opportunities and travel is often called a great mom.

        That is, unless she relies on government assistant to do the above things because she doesn’t have the income and time to do them — which are time, energy, and financially intensive — while being employed full time. To some people, a woman like the second one isn’t considered a great mom. She’s just a welfare mom.

        1. KK

          Morgan,

          It’s irresponsible to bring a child into the world if you can’t support that child without government assistance.

          Also, I’m confused as to how someone who relies on government assistance is able to “spend money so her children can participate in cultural and educational opportunities and travel”.

          The truth is that children born to welfare moms are at a huge disadvantage. They will never have the same opportunities or advantages that their wealthier (even lower middle-class) peers have.

        2. Morgan

          KK

          Are any of the people in your social circle women who at any time in their lives could have been described as welfare moms?  I personally know mothers like this as well as those who come from very  affluent families and those from socioeconomic levels between these two extremes. They are a varied lot, not stereotypes; so are their children.

          Also, a child born to a mother whose wealth pays for her addiction to prescription drugs, or who has a closer bond with his nanny than her, or who is never dusciplined for misbehaving at his posh private school because Dad writes bigger and bigger checks toward the school’s  endowment as hush money, or whose father is a CEO at a Fotune 500 company that pays illegal workers slave wages, or that spends vacations in expensive drug rehab facilities is also at a great disadvantage. But no one tells a dysfunctional well-to-do couple who are highly likely to create such a family and raise such a child not to procreate. Instead, their friends throw them lavish baby showers.

        3. Morgan

          KK

          I’m confused as to how someone who relies on government assistance is able to “spend money so her children can participate in cultural and educational opportunities and travel.”

          There are many resources available. A parent who is highly invested in giving her children the best start in life as she can, researches them and takes advantage of them. I know several parents like this. It doesn’t require money to do this. But it does involve time, effort, and dedication.

          It takes time to find the resources, apply if there is an application process, travel by public transport if need be, network to learn about new opportunities that arise and share your knowledge about the same, and continue to do all these things and more until your child is a full-fledged adult.

          Some of the parents I know who have done these things are ones you would call welfare moms or at some point during their parenting, would be qualified to be called that.

          It’s easy to say what another person should or shouldn’t do when you are confused to exactly how they get through their day to day existence. It’s the old never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes axiom at play here. I think it’s wise for all of us to bear this in mind at all times.

        4. Morgan

          KK

          I mistakenly said it doesn’t take money to be a parent that provides your child with a high quality upbringing. But, of course, it does. I just doesn’t take having a lot of disposable income.

          Also, just because you receive federal assistance doesn’t mean you don’t have a job. That woman who takes your order at McDonald’s or rings up your purchase at Wal Mart might be a welfare mom working when she’s not chaperoning her child’s class on a field trip or fulfilling her duties as PTA president. I personally know several mothers like tbis. The slovenly-welfare-mom myth of the 1980s has remained ingrained in the psyche of American culture even though it was never a true reflection of the average mother who is entitled to government assistance.

          When rich people get government entitlements, they’re  looked up to as saavy businessmen. When poor people get them, their looked down on as lazy moochers by the very people who get rich off of their poverty — the obscenely wealthy benefitters of entitlements for the obscenely wealthy.

        5. KK

          Morgan,

          It’s obvious you have compassion for welfare moms. I do as well. The difference is that your compassion keeps them stuck as victims in a generational cycle of poverty, whereas mine doesn’t. I think they can do better. I think it’s unwise to encourage people to have children until they can care for them properly and no, properly doesn’t mean being able to spend summers in the Hamptons or travelling across Europe, although if they can, that’s great too.

        6. Morgan

          KK

          It’s not that I have compassion for welfare moms. It’s that I think the term is used by a certain type of person to pejoratively describe the reality of a group of people about whom they have little or no firsthand knowledge. So I tbink welfare mom is at best a useless term and at worse a harmful one.

          We can all do better. There are some women who you would classify as welfare moms and some who you would classify as above those women. People in both groups, were they privy to the intricacies of your life, could probably point out ways in which you could do better.

          I don’t think you lack compassion. Based on your comments here, I do think you are ignorant of what the average mother who receives government assistance’s life is like and of the fact that most lower income people who receive government assistance only do so temporarily and are typically striving to “do better,” which is what we should all do, aspire to contiinually improve rather than stagnate.

        7. KK

          Morgan,

          “It’s not that I have compassion for welfare moms. It’s that I think the term is used by a certain type of person to pejoratively describe the reality of a group of people about whom they have little or no firsthand knowledge. So I tbink welfare mom is at best a useless term and at worse a harmful one”.

          Well, I didn’t coin the term so I’m not sure how using a common term makes me “a certain type of person”. Nor do I feel using a common term is useless or harmful. Welfare mom literally means a mom on welfare. I suppose you could lobby, protest, or picket for an acronym to become a more acceptable PC term, but it won’t change their reality.

          “We can all do better. There are some women who you would classify as welfare moms and some who you would classify as above those women. People in both groups, were they privy to the intricacies of your life, could probably point out ways in which you could do better”.

          That’s probably true. It doesn’t change the fact that our tax dollars are being used to support irresponsible people and their offspring.

          “Based on your comments here, I do think you are ignorant of what the average mother who receives government assistance’s life is like and of the fact that most lower income people who receive government assistance only do so temporarily and are typically striving to “do better,” which is what we should all do, aspire to contiinually improve rather than stagnate”.

          I have no issues with individuals who are striving to do their best or people who fall on hard times and need temporary assistance. I do take issue with people who rely on public assistance their entire lives and continue to procreate without any thought of how that will negatively affect their children, much less the burden on society. Based on your comments here, I think you are ignorant of the harsh realities that these people face. You’re painting a very Disney fairytale picture of something that is anything but. Poverty is generational. The only way to stop the cycle of poverty in a particular family is through higher education, gainful employment and waiting until you’re financially independent to start a family.

           

           

           

        8. Morgan

          KK

          Government entitlements — a.k.a. welfare — for the wealthy harm society as well. Do these bother you?

          Does it bother you that Wal Mart —  a notorious employer of the working poor, including hundreds of  thousands of “welfare moms, makes people clock in part-time hours but has them work well over 40 hours per week? Does it bother you that when these employees demand being paid the overtime they are due, Wal Mart fires them and hires a welfare mom who’ll shut up about being grossly underpaid because she needs the money and the welfare office won’t let her get her monthly check if she can’t prove that she’s been working or looking for a job?  Does any of this bother you?

          Because it bothers me each time I hear a real person tell me, to my face, not via a New York Times op-ed piece, that they’ve experienced this scenaroo.

          And it bothers me to hear you describe people who are honestly trying to do their best — people who make sacrifices so their children can get into top colleges, or college in general, or simply get descent-paying non-exploitive jobs, or start their own businesses  — as societal burdens.

          It bothers me for you to banty the term “welfare mom” around so liberally while remaining silent about  the criminal actions of the wealthy elite who receive corporate welfare and use their victims as shields so that people like you can point fingers at fictitious villainous welfare moms instead of the real villains — one percenters with no social conscience who profit from the ignorance, labor, and compulsive consumerism of everyone else, you and I included.

  5. 5
    Sum Guy

    Well said Morgan,

    to me it’s not so much the money your kids make, but are they good people who know how to have a happy life

    success in the US means economic success.   Lip service is given to other aspects of life but really without money you are not considered a success.  We even appear to idolize those with a lot of money but clearly lack everything else

    Sure you may affect a low material status symbol lifestyle,but is really just replacing objects with free time.  The meme and image we are sold is the status quo is fine, and buying things make you happy.   The insidious part is people think that buying experiences (read travel, vacations) takes them outside this.   It doesn’t (for most) it’s just an even more privileged form of consumption as it reaquires extensive disposable time as well as money.

    I do agree with Evan that the less resources (time, money) and support network (partner, family) you have the more the deck is stacked against you and your kids.  Nothing new there that has been true through all of human history yet people still have kids regardless.

    Alas the flip side, especially of my professional female friends, is if you wait until you have extensive resources it may be too late to conceive.

  6. 6
    Suzanne

    There isn’t a lid for every pot. And if a single parent has the resources, then what is wrong with having children on their own? Not everyone gets the fairytale.

    1. 6.1
      Yet Another Guy

      As I mentioned above, a child needs a mother and father.  Men and women are not interchangeable.

      1. 6.1.1
        Morgan

        Yet Another Guy

        Life is rarely either black or white, one or the other, none or all. Most often, it’s both and and.

        A child needs a mother and a father. AND children raised by committed single parents can have wonderful and rich childhoods and lives as adults.

        Men and women aren’t interchangeable. AND a single parent who is committed to being the best parent possible for her or his children can raise happy, well-adjusted, well-educated, and compassionate children who grow up to be productive members of society.

        1. Yet Another Guy

          However, a single-parent family is far from ideal.  Children do not learn to interact as well and tend to have trust issues with the gender of the missing parent.  There is a night and day difference between my sisters who grew up with a mother and a father in the same house and my ex who grew up in single-parent household, even though we did not grow up in a “Leave it to Beaver” household. My sisters cannot relate to my ex’s behavior when it comes to the opposite sex.  Her problem with the opposite sex does not lie just with me.  Every man who has attempted to get close her has received the same treatment.

          The cold hard truth is that girls whose fathers check out when they are young do not fare nearly as well as girls who grow in an intact family, and they are significantly more prone to becoming pregnant in their teen years because they fear abandonment.  A significant body of research backs up that reality.  My daughters are the reason why I remained in a marriage that was completely devoid of intimate contact for a decade without resorting to infidelity.   I may have been a man slut when I was younger, but daughters change a man.

          https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-29/june/absent-fathers-and-sexual-strategies

          “Much evidence suggests that father absence shifts daughters toward accelerated development, sexuality and reproduction. For instance, researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that early paternal investment is an important determinant of pubertal timing, with daughters of less involved fathers experiencing earlier menarche relative to girls growing up with more involved fathers (Ellis et al., 2003; Ellis et al., 1999; Quinlan, 2003). Moreover, father-absent girls display a host of outcomes often experienced by early developing girls – including increased sexual promiscuity, higher rates of teen pregnancy, earlier first sexual intercourse and reproduction, and difficulty forming stable long-term relationships – with the most pronounced effects being observed for girls whose fathers were absent from an early age (Belsky et al., 1991; Chisholm et al., 2005; Draper & Harpending, 1982; Quinlan, 2003).”

           

        2. KK

          YAG,

          Do you realize that your daughters are at high-risk according to your own assessment? They are teens in high school, are they not?

          Therefore, you are not there to shake their date’s hand or to impose consequences if they miss curfew. You are blindly trusting your ex wife to do the heavy lifting, and if you’ve calculated incorrectly, you could be Grandpa YAG much earlier than anticipated.

        3. Morgan

          Yet Another Guy

          In my opinion — unsubstantiated by studies, as it is — an ideal family is one in which every member feels loved, respected, valued, and free to be themselves.

        4. Noquay

          YAG

          Yep, two parent families are indeed best PROVIDED both parents are stable, functional, and put their children’s future and development first and foremost. For many of our parents generation, parenthood was what society dictated that you do, regardless of ones ability or inclination. I am truly grateful that society has advanced (or gone back to something resembling the old, tribal ways) where it is now OK to choose NOT to have children, go back to an extended family model where all of us are responsible for a child’s well being. In the rigid, closed, forced nuclear family model, if things were dysfunctional, a child had no where outside the family to get away from the situation and could only endure. Evan is spot on here, you have to be the best YOU, you can be, BEFORE taking on parenthood, the hardest, longest, most challenging job there is.

        5. Yet Another Guy

          @KK

          I did not leave until my daughters were young ladies.  They will be seniors in the fall (i.e., I am a recent divorcee).  The critical years are the tween and early teen years.

          My girls do not have boyfriends, nor do they date because their lives are too full with school, extra-curricular activities/engagements to improve their college applications, and part-time jobs that they choose to work.  Trust me, neither I nor my ex have our eyes closed.  Neither of us grew up in privileged families.  We both saw a lot of girls get into trouble when we were younger.  Both of my girls want to be accepted by a very competitive university; therefore, they know that they cannot afford to make mistakes.  One of my girls wants to attend a prestigious medical school; therefore, getting accepted into the pre-med undergraduate program at this particular university is a must.

          I agonized over my decision to leave, but it was time.  My girls were young ladies who knew that they were loved by their father.  One of my daughters recently wrote a long text thanking me for putting her and her sister’s happiness and needs before my own for so long.  She mentioned how one of her best friend’s father abandoned her and her mother for a younger woman, and how angry this friend is at the world many years after his departure.  My daughter concluded the text by telling me that I had earned the right to be happy, and that it was time for me to find someone who would love me the way that I deserved to be loved.   The flood of emotions that occurred when I read that text was so intense that I could barely maintain my composure.  Tears were streaming down my face.  Daughters are gifts to a father.  They love him unconditionally.  It is his job to ensure that they are safe and their needs are met until the day that he draws his last breath.

  7. 7
    Aly

    My guess is that single parent vs married parent has more to do with money and poverty. It’s a little… odd… to suggest that only rich married educated people should have children also. I don’t 100% disagree but I’m pretty sure that a well off educated single mom can raise successful children. Weren’t Obama and Clinton both born to single parents? Anyway I know you aren’t saying that there are not exceptions, but that this is a pattern or tendency rather than a rule. I would be interested to know if studies have controlled for education and income when considering single vs married. And also making sure they aren’t being funded by “family values” or religious organizations.  Thought provoking as always!

  8. 8
    Scooter

    Wow, there are too many self-righteous, “Stone Age” responses, here. I know a few single parents who do far better with their children than some married couples.  Yes, I know I am giving my anecdotes, but the crap being spouted about how every kid needs a mother AND a father, is both absurd and vacuous.

    There is no “perfect” time to bring a child into the world.

    Yes, parents with better education and income can provide more opportunities, and have advantages in raising a well-adjusted child.

    In the end, if one TRULY wants a child, and has the means to provide, then.. DO IT!

     

  9. 9
    John

    To become a single parent on purpose because you cannot find a man is not wise. I’m sure Amazon will have a baby ordering system in place soon where you can customize your child. Prime members will also get free shipping.

    You cannot do it on your own. It’s an illusion. Day-care, your parents, and welfare is not doing it alone.

    Wealthy Hollywood women can do it with their army of nannies. Most of the rest of the population don’t have the option.

    1. 9.1
      Morgan

      John

      No parent — including parents who are a married couple — does it on their own, or with only the help of a spouse. A couple that solely relies on each other as the network for their children have little time to nurture their marriage.  Whether we are parents or not, single, or married, we all need multiple sources of parenting support or else, eventually, we break down physically and mentally.

      Did any one here indicate that most single mothers believe they are “doing it on their own”? If so, I missed that comment.

      Also, are you suggesting that a woman who wants to be a mother but has not found a man to enter into a committed relationship with by the time her child-bearing years are almost over should give up on her desire to be a mother? As I’ve already stated, I think we’d all do well to withhold judgement about the choices other people make, especially when we’ve never had to face their predicaments and live their unique lives.

      1. 9.1.1
        John

        Morgan

        There is a difference between judgment and discernment.

        If you feel I am judging women who have a child with no father on purpose, your are incorrect. I am saying it is unwise. There is a difference.

        You are using the “being judgemental” argument to obscure the totally selfish decision to have a baby without a father because a woman wanting to be a mom trumps all concern for the child she is bringing into this world with no father. It is irresponsible.

        I don’t need to judge it when it is self-evident that it is a bad decision to have a child with no father from the get go.

         

        1. Stacy

          @John

          I agree with everything you said.

        2. Morgan

          You are using the “being judgemental” argument to obscure the totally selfish decision to have a baby without a father because a woman wanting to be a mom trumps all concern for the child she is bringing into this world with no father. It is irresponsible.

          I don’t need to judge it when it is self-evident that it is a bad decision to have a child with no father from the get go.


          Selfish v unselfish. Concern v unconcerned. Responsible v irresponsible. Good v bad.

          All of this is judgement.

      2. 9.1.2
        KK

        “No parent — including parents who are a married couple — does it on their own, or with only the help of a spouse. A couple that solely relies on each other as the network for their children have little time to nurture their marriage.  Whether we are parents or not, single, or married, we all need multiple sources of parenting support or else, eventually, we break down physically and mentally”.

        Surely, you can’t be serious. Parenting is a serious commitment but…”we all need multiple sources of parenting support or else, eventually, we break down physically and mentally.”

        YOU may need multiple sources of support. Anyone who feels they will break down physically and mentally, should not have kids.

        1. Morgan

          KK

          In my opinion,, anyone — whether they are a parent or not — who doesn’t recognize the multiple ways that their lives are supported by others on any given day lacks appreciion.

  10. 10
    Gala

    Saying someone shouldn’t have kids because they can’t provide for them properly is dangerous territory. “Properly” is in the eyes of the beholder, and if it is defined as US middle class, than by that standard you’d be telling all poor people to not have children? Who’s gonna decide the level of income at which one is “allowed” to reproduce?

    Using big data statistics to give personal advice is also dangerous territory. So, African Americans make what, like 60c on a dollar compared to the whites in the US, so a black child is automatically disadvantaged. Should we tell black people to not have kids?! No, of course not, that would be horrible. What about other things that will disadvantage you in life? How about lower IQ? How about history of diabetes? Should we advise those people to not have kids? Nobody dares to say that, but singling out single moms and giving them guilt is ok somehow. The last group you can beat up on and still remain politically correct.

    The truth is, not everybody has the “ideal” situation and people are brought into this world with all sorts of disadvantages- some are poor, some are sick, some have lower IQs, and some have only one parent. And that’s ok. Having kids is taking a risk, and just because you may fail is not the reason to not even try. A child born to a stable single mother in the US is automatically better off than 99pc of the world’s population for god’s sakes. To say that unless you have everything lined up according to the middle-class ideal you shouldn’t have kids is just ludicrous

     

    1. 10.1
      Morgan

      Gala

      I agree with you — from your first sentence to the last.

       

    2. 10.2
      Helene

      It is not ludicrous to say people need to be able to care for their children adequately before bringing them into the world. This means:

      – emotional resources – the ability to think about and respond to another person’s emotional needs. This means you need to not be so messed up/self obsessed that you haver nothing to give a child emotionally

      – practical resources – this means time, and the abilty to be around to do things for your child that need done. In this sense, you could say that movie stars who have to go off on location for months are not well placed to have children even though they are wealthy – its not all about money. its about being able to attend parent’s evenings and school events, make dinner, go shopping for school shoes etc..etc…

      – financial resources – enough money to feed, clothe and educate your child without having to rely on state support – which does not, in fact,  come from “the state” but from other working people paying tax and trying to raise their own families!

      1. 10.2.1
        Gala

        It is not ludicrous to say people need to be able to care for their children adequately before bringing them into the world

        It is when you insist on being the authority in deciding what is considered “adequate” with the list like the one written up above. Ludicrous and bigoted, and totally transparent in its disdain for anyone who does not conform to your values and background.

        And even putting all of that aside, “choice moms”, that is women at the end of their fertility years who chose to have children on their own, can and do provide all of those resources. Their children are wanted and well cared for. Is this and ideal setup? No, of course not, this is why it is called a “backup plan”. But let’s not confuse what the options are here. The options for the mom are not between having a full nuclear family or raising kids on her own. It’s between raising kids on her own or having no family at all. And the option for those kids is not between being raised in a functional two parent household or by a single mother. It is between being raised by a single mother and not being born at all. Somehow, nothing in the data suggests that those kids consider their life not worth living, so who the heck are you to judge?

        1. KK

          Bigoted?

          I knew that was coming.

        2. Gala

          KK: bigoted = stubbornly considering one’s views superior to other’s. This is exactly the right word for someone who thinks that kids should only be brought up in some rigidly defined structure that excludes north of 90pc of the world’s population from the “right to reproduce”

        3. KK

          Gala: bigoted = stubbornly considering one’s views superior to other’s. This is exactly the right word for someone who thinks that every poor person who decides to procreate should be entitled to other people’s money just because.

          “… some rigidly defined structure that excludes north of 90pc of the world’s population from the “right to reproduce”

          Why are you wanting to compare the USA to the rest of the world? Of course there are third world countries where people starve to death. That’s certainly not something we should try to emulate or pat ourselves on the back because there’s a safety net not only for people who really need it (mentally or physically incapacitated) but for anyone who chooses not to become gainfully employed. Not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but the middle class is shrinking. If people choose to live in poverty and keep having 5 or 6 kids, they will eventually outnumber the middle class. Then what? Who will take care of them then? Americans aren’t willing to pay 50% or more in taxes. There will eventually be a civil war or people will simply move overseas to other areas of the world where they can keep the more of the money they earn.

           

    3. 10.3
      Stacy

      @Gala

      I dont think anyone is saying that poor people cant have children or that one has to have a certain level of income in order to reproduce. What I am saying (and I dont want to speak on behalf of anyone else but I also garner this point from some in this forum) is that it is not always WISE to do something because you can do it.  And there is an implicit standard in all of this…if you can barely feed yourself, barely make enough money to get by, live in a drug infested area, and you know that having a kid will propel you into even more poverty, what is wrong with saying, ‘hey, maybe this isn’t a good option at this point’?

      Yes, that example was a little extreme but the point is that while ‘ideal’ is not always practical, one can still make better decisions by setting a standard for oneself. I grew up with little privilege in another country and let me tell you, poverty is PAINFUL. There is nothing cute about having 5 kids and not being able to afford to feed them (I have seen this over and over).

      1. 10.3.1
        Gala

        Stacy: but this is exactly what you are saying, is it not? Your first paragraph and your last contradict each other. People in extreme poverty have 5 kids for  various reason, aside from religious views this is lack of access to family planning and zero opportunity cost (i.e. these women are not foregoing a lucrative career or a promotion to have kids,  they don’t have any opportunities so they don’t care). But this isn’t a discussion on poverty issues. This is a bunch of smug divorces shaming single mothers by choice. I.e., women who love their children and provide for them (albeit may be not at a level that someone may judge is “appropriate”). As if the fact that they found someone willing to commit to them for long enough to produce a couple of kids somehow makes them more fit to be a parent. Not so. And just because you say “I am not judging I just think it’s unwise” doesn’t make it non-judgmental .. that IS judging. At the very least, own your bigotry (I know you do so … at least you are honest).

        1. Stacy

          Gala
          I am a minority (black woman) PLUS I frankly do not see divorced women like me that different from single, never married women (no matter if you pronounce it as poh-tay-toe or PO-TA-TO…it’s still a potato).  If I did, I would have said so…so I think this is YOUR insecurities that are being highlighted here because you are making unsubstantiated judgments which you seem to love to accuse others of making. And there is nothing wrong with judgment. We live our lives on judgment. I judge who I want to date. I judge who I want to be around. I wear a suit to an interview because I will be judged. Shucks, your entire post is a judgment on your assessment of what you think I mean. I say it’s unwise but you say it isn’t. See, we both judged. Even the Bible (if you believe in the book) says, ‘Judge with a righteous judgment’. In other words, as long as the judgment is coming from a place of true assessment, there is nothing wrong with it. You even judged me for being a bigot without knowing me.lol Hypocritical much?
           
          But back to the post: The REASON becomes irrelevant when people knowingly have kids that they cannot take care of, and especially if they have the means to prevent it.  And for some reason, you seem to GLOSS over my point that I made it VERY clear that there is a difference between having children and not being well off and having children that you just cannot afford to feed, house or CLOTHE.  I volunteered at a shelter awhile back (for very poor and abused women) in North Philadelphia.  MOST of the women were there because they did not have a POT to piss in. So it is LUDICROUS to encourage these women to keep procreating even if they wanted to.  And where on this board did someone (or most people at least) say that having someone to procreate with makes you a better parent? What I am saying is that having a good PARTNER will benefit your children BETTER than if you go it alone. It does not mean you CAN’T do it alone. However, it tends to be more advantageous on every level (IF it were to be so) for your children. How on earth you are arguing with this is beyond me.  So honestly, I think maybe some of this is hitting very close to home for you for your own personal reasons because you are literally seeing what you want to see and hearing what you want to hear because you think it is a confirmation bias on what you think most people already think about single mothers. It is a FACT that a man/father is an ASSET to his children (assuming he is not abusive or crazy). To simply try to erase a man as a mere optional accessory to raising kids is DANGEROUS. It doesn’t mean that a woman can’t do it alone but the road tends to be much harder and it benefits your children to avoid that IF YOU CAN.  It already takes a village to raise a child…I have two and it’s damn hard AND that is with their father involved and with me making decent money.

  11. 11
    Morgan

    KK

    What I’m trying to say and what I mentioned in my first comment about this article and what Gala also brought up is that there are centuries-long societal structures in place that bolster the upward mobility of certain groups of people while simultaneously hindering that of others. Any discussion about what “welfare moms” should do that doesn’t address this dire embedded reality ignores a fundamental reason why such mothers exist.

     

    1. 11.1
      KK

      “What I’m trying to say and what I mentioned in my first comment about this article and what Gala also brought up is that there are centuries-long societal structures in place that bolster the upward mobility of certain groups of people while simultaneously hindering that of others”.

      Morgan,

      I’m interested in these so called societal structures that produce magical results for the upwardly mobile and hinder others.

      I’ve always credited my own family with raising me, supporting me, and making sure I had an education until I was able to take care of myself. And now, I’m doing those same things for my own kids. There aren’t any societal structures in place that assure success.

      Even among the elite. Of course people who are born into wealth have significant advantages. That goes without saying. But unless those families are okay with supporting their grown children for the rest of their lives (which some are and it has absolutely zero effect on anyone else), they will also have to pursue an education or work for their family or whatever. Who cares, really?

  12. 12
    Morgan

    KK

    I’m interested in these so called societal structures that produce magical results for the upwardly mobile and hinder others

    If yiure sincerely interested in learning about this topic, KK, Google “Systemic Racism.” There’s a wealth of information and research on it.

    1. 12.1
      KK

      Morgan,

      Google: learned helplessness, enablers, and detrimental effects of a victim mentality.

  13. 13
    John

    Morgan

    Facts are not judgements.

  14. 14
    Sadie

    So, children born and raised to a committed couple that are educated, mentally stable, and financially comfortable more often have better outcomes than children born into less desirable circumstances. Shocker there.

    Now what about these single women lacking husbands that want to have children that have caused such a stir? Last I checked, there were only a few ways to get pregnant.

    1. Sex with a man

    2. AI and a sperm bank

    If a single woman wants to get pregnant via method #1, but does not have a man that is desiring to be the father of her children, then she is left with deceit of some sort.  Which is a bad idea. Scenarios can also be imagined that include men that want to be fathers but are not otherwise good relationship prospects. That also seems to be a bad idea (though less bad than deceiving some poor dude into paternity imo).

    If a single woman wishes to pursue pregnancy using option #2, let us assume she has some financial resources. I don’t believe such procedures/goods are free or covered under many healthcare plans. I believe a single woman of some financial means, with an adequate friend/family support system, could choose that road and reasonably expect to raise well adjusted children. Surely that conversation with the child would be easier than a lifetime of trying to explain why an absentee father is absent. I’d say her child would have better chances than a child born into a poverty stricken household, with relatives in and out of jail, and an absentee father. And since startling numbers of children are born into similarly horrid circumstances, railing about the selfishness of our hypothetical single woman that goes to the sperm bank to have a child seems rather silly. I wonder how a child born out of AI vs. a child born any other way, alters the mother’s future dating prospects? On the upside, there is no baby daddy drama. On the downside, there is no child support. Clearly, the AI child was intentionally conceived. Does that make a difference in the eyes of suitors?

    Also, if a single man wishes to have children…what are his options? Is there an egg bank? Surrogate mothers available? I’ve not considered this problem from the male point of view before.

    As for myself, if I find that I am childless at 40 with no hope for a husband/father in sight…I am buying more horses. And maybe a gulf front condo.

     

  15. 15
    Marie

    Let’s not kid ourselves (no pun intended) – having children is an inherently selfish behavior period. The world is over run with people – you are not doing anything altruistic by contributing to overpopulation.  We have babies because we want to for ourselves for whatever reason. The debate is what’s more selfish vs less selfish in terms of the circumstances the child is born into.

    Before I met my husband 5 years ago, I used to tell myself that if I didn’t find the right partner in x years don’t worry I can just do in vitro and have babies on my own.  Now that my husband and I actually just had our first infant, I could not in a million years think that was a good idea.  I don’t care how many resources you have (and we have plenty), the thought of not having my husband around to provide our baby with fatherly love and attention (not to mention with me on the sleepless nights) makes me shudder. I’m not saying this to come down on anyone but wanted to give a reality check for any woman considering deliberately having a baby without the father around – it would be a sacrifice for your child just because you want a baby. And you’re not going to really know how it will turn out until your child is grown.

  16. 16
    heather

    I’m 42 years old, college educated, and have been unsuccessful at dating and finding a man to marry/finding a man who would marry me.   I’m about to become a single mother by choice, not because it really is my choice, but because I’m too old to hold out for any other choice at this point.   I wish, wish, wish I had figured out how to win a decent man before it came to this, but I can’t fix it now.

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