In a study released in the June issue of the journal American Sociological Review, mothers who have had a baby while unmarried appear to be at higher risk for poor health. The study, which began in 1979, followed close to 4,000 women between the ages of 14 and 22. The young women were queried every year until 1994, and every two years thereafter until 2008.
Those women who had delivered children outside of marriage reported being less healthy as they approached their 40s than the ones who had postponed motherhood until after marriage. In addition, those who began motherhood and then married reported the same health concerns. Those who married before having children reported the highest levels of positive health.
The study allowed for prior existing health conditions.
The rate of birth in the unmarried mother category has jumped from less than 10% in 1960 to close to 40% today.
The reasons for reduced health in this group are unknown, but many surmise that the possibility of a lower income level may have something to do with it. Women who have children when they are both younger and unmarried typically have a lower level of education and this can be a deterrent to higher income.