A stunning statistic

Yesterday Alan posted this comment, it’s worth exploring some more:

Rodney Hide cites a pretty stunning statistic in his NBR column this weekend. In 1961 95% of children were born to married parents. Now it is 53%. For Maori children it is 22%.

This perhaps is stunning but it’s no surprise to me at all. Attitudes to having babies and to marriage have changed enormously in my lifetime.

In the sixties and still into the seventies it was normal for girls and boys to marry young, often still as teenagers. This was in part because it was the done thing, and in part seen as a necessity when girls became pregnant.

Having children soon after getting married was very common – within 9 months give or take a few months.

Having children ‘out of wedlock’ was widely frowned on. It was commonly seen as a disgrace.

I know of two girls 2-3 years older than me who had children while I was at school. One was in the open, she had to stay away from school but was allowed to sit school certificate (I sat some of the same exams as her). In both cases their parents raised the babies.

I later learned it was common for girls to disappear ‘up north’ for a while. I know of one from Invercargill who went to Auckland for six months, but who returned with her baby refusing to adopt it out, as was common then. Her parents were quite upset about the family disgrace.

In Dunedin there was a ‘wayward girl’ hospital, where they went (usually sent by parents) to hide their pregnancies and had their babies.

Adoption was common and was often done under pressure, sometimes extreme pressure.

But things changed dramatically in the seventies and eighties. It was a combination of a major attitude change plus the introduction of financial support for single parents.

And now we have only about a half of children born to married parents. And often first children are born before parents get married. It simply doesn’t matter to most people now whether a couple is legally married or not.

There’s pros and cons with this change.

Largely gone now is the shaming of girls and women who get pregnant (usually with the help of a male).

Virtually forced removal of new born babies from mothers is now seen as abhorrent.

Most children are now raised by at least one of their natural parents, which in general is a positive thing.

But there are major downsides, including the lack of commitment in many relationships, the poverty trap that many young parents find themselves in, and families with multiple fathers – this can work out ok but it can also end in disaster due to parental conflict and a lack of care for other people’s children.

Regardless, there is no going back. For most people being a parent and getting married are seen as two separate issues, two unconnected decisions.

The child in wedlock tradition is history, or at least simply one option.

Leave a comment

44 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  23rd April 2016

    The enormous gap between Maori and European/Asian numbers is most stunning and I can’t believe it is telling a good cultural story. It would be illuminating to see other factors like age and income of parents which are probably accentuating this difference.

    Reply
    • Iceberg

       /  23rd April 2016

      Until the left own up to the fact that the welfare state has enabled these statistics, “child poverty” ain’t gonna be fixed anytime soon.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  23rd April 2016

        My former neighbours who have been living together unmarried for, at a guess, 20 years, had and probably still have an income and house larger than any I am ever likely to have.

        Reply
  2. Corky

     /  23rd April 2016

    There’s really no need to debate this issue. Look at society, find your answer. Compare Asian society to Maori society. The former makes no claim of being caring and family oriented, yet they are. The latter thinks the concept of family starts and ends with them, but the negative stats say that’s bs. Sadly even European society is starting down the same track of family instability.

    I’m glad the repressive morality of yesteryear is gone. But I fear we drowned the baby before throwing it out with the bathwater.

    Michael Laws once said ” Kiwi society is incapable of producing a Lydia Ko.” I think he is right. Going by the above stats the family supported needed for such a feat is fading into oblivion.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  23rd April 2016

      Was the morality that oppressive ? The so-called sexual revolution was the 1960s. The concept-and name-of free love goes back almost two centuries before that.

      Why do people assume that the fact that the parents aren’t married means that they are neither together nor in a committed relationship like my former neighbours whose children are now young teenagers ?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  23rd April 2016

        You can’t assume that about any particular case but you can assume that the odds are much higher that the child is not living with its two natural parents.

        Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  23rd April 2016

      Michael Laws is talking nonsense. We have had any number of world-beating athletes, including golfers. How does he explain that ? All the family support imaginable isn’t going to give someone a natural gift like Lydia Ko’s, Beatrice Faumiiana’s (hope this is right), Michael Campbell’s, Sarah Ulmer’s, the Evers-Swindell twins, Mahe Drysdale’s…and who knows how many others.It wouldn’t matter how much my parents had encouraged me, I’d never have done anything like that.

      I was reading at three and was reading the classics by the time I was seven, but I was a total dud at sports.

      Reply
    • duperez

       /  25th April 2016

      Michael Laws once said ” Kiwi society is incapable of producing a Lydia Ko.”
      Look on the bright side though, we are capable of producing a genius like him.
      Just being facetious – what an idiotic thing to think and say. It shows the extreme limitation of his knowledge of this country and the achievers here.

      Reply
  3. Ray

     /  23rd April 2016

    The good old days, not only was there no state support to help a single woman raise her child but she had to swear on a bible that she would not try to contact her adopted out child
    Illegal then and very much so now
    Falls into the standard “Seems like a good idea” NZ way of dealing with problems

    Reply
  4. Gezza

     /  23rd April 2016

    “Largely gone now is the shaming of girls and women who get pregnant (usually with the help of a male).”

    Usually? I’ve yet to see where they can get pregnant with no male involved somewhere in the production chain.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  23rd April 2016

      ‘I would that there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest, for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting….’

      Shakespeare

      Chaucer was somewhat less refined on the subject.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  23rd April 2016

        From what I gather, men who took off and left a girl to it were despised .

        In Brittany, in the 16th or 17th century, I forget which-both possibly-a man who was taken to court by a girl in what we would now call a paternity suit and who did the ancient (even then, probably) dodge of having his friends say that they’d all gone with her as well was likely to find himself very unpopular with them.The odds were that the judge would make the whole lot pay maintenance-serve them damned well right !

        In England the man or boy who made a girl pregnant could be legally obliged to marry her-this was still happening in the 19th century.

        Reply
  5. Rodney Hide

     /  23rd April 2016

    It’s worth noting also sole parenthood correlates with benefit dependency, low income and the same for the children.

    I think our understanding suggests causation.

    The problem is a compounding one.

    I don’t know the policy answer but we need to recognise cause and effect.

    Rodney Hide

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  23rd April 2016

      So, if you were given the portfolio, what would you do?

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  23rd April 2016

      “The problem is a compounding one.”

      And is this still true, since National’s changes to welfare policy to require young teenage mothers to look for work when their child turns five, and now three?

      Reply
    • patupaiarehe

       /  23rd April 2016

      One could look at financial support for single parents as being the cause of this. One could also say that this support has helped a lot of women and children escape from abusive situations they would have otherwise been trapped in….
      IMHO the statistics relate more to the church no longer being relevant to most people. Which I think is great. Using fear and shame to coerce people, when they are at their most vulnerable, is just despicable.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  23rd April 2016

        Tena koe (hello) PP. I was told, don’t you go getting some girl pregnant and expecting us to have to bail you out. If you do that, you’re getting a job and getting married. And you’re the one who’s going to have to face her parents, not us. My sister got much the same speech.

        That’s been missing for a while.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  23rd April 2016

          And then my sister went and got pregnant at 15. They married. I couldn’t ask for a better brother in law. They both worked. They are both now very well off financially. They have two boys. One is on the Maori electoral roll by choice. He’s a hugely successful science teacher. He raises the pass rate by 10-20% within a year wherever he teaches, here or overseas. He’s currently in the US with his wife and their child. He prefers to teach in State schools. My other nephew is a nice enough young guy but a drifter.

          Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  23rd April 2016

          There were a number of children who were raised by grandchildren and passed off as the youngest child-this went on for centuries (literally) A giveaway is when there’s a large gap-10 years or more-between the youngest and the second to youngest who is, in fact, an aunt or uncle to the youngest and not their brother or sister. Phiz, who illustrated many of Dickens’ books, was the child of his oldest sister. His grandparents’ marriage was very shaky, but, unfortunately for the timing of his birth, there was a reconciliation which resulted in the still-young grandmother becoming pregnant. A lot of juggling went on with the babies’ ages to make it seem possible that they were both hers.

          It was a well-known dodge that if the boyfriend was a bit slow in proposing, the girl would announce that a baby was on the way, as happened in Jude the Obscure (1895) After the wedding, the wife would say that she’d been mistaken, Human nature doesn’t change. Look at the number of illegitimate children in Jane Austen, the Brontes, Hardy and Dickens.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  23rd April 2016

            There were a number of children who were raised by grandchildren and passed off as the youngest child …

            Was time travel involved in this somehow Kitty?

            Reply
        • patupaiarehe

           /  23rd April 2016

          Kiaora G. Can’t say I got a ‘speech’ like that myself. But when I finally ‘got one past the goalie’, I knew I had a responsibility to do my best for him, and for her. Even if I hadn’t planned on my wahine taking what was ‘poked at her in fun’ so seriously… 😉
          Both our parents were fine with it. We had been living together for over a year, so obviously it was going to happen eventually.
          Her extended (so called) christian family were far less understanding. Before we were pregnant there were whispers between the aunts, within earshot of her mother about us ‘living in sin’. When we told her nana we were expecting, her reaction was “So when is the wedding?”. Much to the delight of my ataahua (lovely) wahine, I replied “When we are good and ready”.
          When her eldest aunt found out, she cornered her niece, and insisted that we “Had to make this right”, even though “Jesus loves all his children, no matter what the circumstances”.
          A few years later, we found out that the judgemental aunt was born 7 months after tipuna tane & tipuna wahine (grandfather & grandmother) were wed. We also discovered that my wifes eldest cousin was born 5 months after judgemental aunt got married…. 😀
          I am very proud of the fact that we got married because we wanted to, not because we had to.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  23rd April 2016

            (blushes) You know what I meant, Gezza-grandPARENTS doing this 😀

            My former neighbour who’d be in her late 80s if she was still alive, had a mother who was very judgemental about sexual lapses-my neighbour’s brother wanted to marry a very nice girl who’d had a baby a few years before and mother was so nasty about it that the marriage didn’t happen. My neighbour discovered years later that HER mother (who was married at 17) had had the brother 5 months later. Nor was she the only one in the family to have a ‘premature’ first baby-and her aunt had one some time before she married a man who wasn’t the father. D’s mother must have been born about 110 years ago-human nature doesn’t change !

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  23rd April 2016

              My tuakana (older brother) is interested in our whakapapa (genealogy). Years back he stared amassing birth and marriage certificates, church records etc where they didn’t exist, tracing the lineage, He noticed he was born 8 months after mum and dad got married. He loved it. So did I.

      • Gezza

         /  26th April 2016

        Why does Rodney Hide just do hit and runs here? When you ask him relevant questions you don’t see him for dust.

        Reply
  6. Gezza

     /  23rd April 2016

    I got married because I was cruisin’ along quite happy with things with the g/f for 9 months and then my wahine said: I want to know where this is going. Are we getting married or not? I said do you want to get married. She said yes. I said ok, let’s get married. I cringe every time I see a romantic proposal when I look back now at how romantic mine was.

    I wouldn’t have had kids without being married. We were careful.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  23rd April 2016

      My parents were Catholic and I was raised one but was an atheist by 15. (I’m agnostic now.) They were loving and decent people. If I’d got my g/f up the duff they’d have helped: they wouldn’t have moralised. But I’d still have had to get a job and marry if I wanted any respect from them, and assuming the girl’s parents agreed.

      Reply
    • patupaiarehe

       /  23rd April 2016

      Why cringe G, that there is genuine honest communication. A great start to any marriage 🙂

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  23rd April 2016

        kaka (laughs) I’m a romantic I guess. I just wish I’d spotted the signs and hired a boat on the lake and popped the question properly. It would’ve been accepted. She’d have flung her arms around my neck and cried.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  23rd April 2016

          Oh god, hope Possum doesn’t notice, was just checking kaka.
          Kata means laughing. Think I just called you a parrot.

          Reply
        • patupaiarehe

           /  23rd April 2016

          The bracketed translations are serving us well G. Did you know that kaka can also mean poo? 🙂
          My own proposal probably wouldn’t meet the standards of a true romantic, but it was good enough for her, which is really all that matters……..

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  23rd April 2016

            Re 1st sentence, I did, but I didn’t like to say … it’d only make things worse. I’d rather think I called you a parrot. I figured you’d be happier with that.

            Re proposal … you’re right. 😀

            Reply
    • Nelly Smickers

       /  23rd April 2016

      Not long after Wayne and me got married, he attended the birth of our first child ❤

      The only thing I could be certain of, is that it was definitely mine.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  23rd April 2016

        You probably should have been there if you wanted to be sure about it.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  23rd April 2016

          Oh sorry Nelly – I badly mis-read that. I thought you said you couldn’t be certain if it was yours. I’ve got used to your sense of humour. Soz. 😳

          Reply
  7. Ray

     /  23rd April 2016

    It is worth noting that Jonathan Hunt (Minister of Wine and Cheese) who generally was a trougher, after a quite a few attempts, changed the law that allowed adopted children to find their natural mothers.
    Consequently is a more deserving ONZ than some

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  23rd April 2016

      Quite right, Ray. I’d forgotten that. I’ll add it to Jonathan Hunt’s credit file – which is pretty thin.

      Reply

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