...I get letters all the time that describe the turbulence that results from deciding marriage is archaic. Sometimes the writers start with a conflicted sense of hope. "My ex is rather immature and irresponsible. I had a recent fling with him that resulted in pregnancy. I am overjoyed with the impending arrival of my baby, but I fear that no one else in my life will feel the same way." This is followed by more conflicted and less hopeful letters when the kids are small. "My boyfriend and I have a child who is almost 2. He also has a daughter and I have two other children. We bought a home together, but a week before we were about to move in, he left me. Now it's four months later, and he's bought me an engagement ring, but I found out he had a girlfriend during the time we were split." "I have two children with my ex-boyfriend. We broke up because last year a paternity test he was ordered to have came back positive. Even though we are not together, I still want my kids to have a father in their life. I also know he is ignoring his new son because he wants nothing to do with the mom, but that little boy also deserves to have a male figure who cares."
Having unmarried parents can be devastating for children who start out with no cushion in life. In 1999 congressional testimony, Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution said that the increase in single-parent families—mostly due to unwed motherhood in the past few decades—"can account for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since 1970." A recent study found that the stress of early childhood poverty can literally damage developing brains.Slate article