Many US women have children by more than one man

Apr 01, 2011

The first national study of the prevalence of multiple partner fertility shows that 28 percent of all U.S. women with two or more children have children by more than one man.

The study will be presented April 1 in Washington, D.C., at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America.

"I was surprised at the prevalence," said demographer Cassandra Dorius, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. "Multiple partner fertility is an important part of contemporary American family life, and a key component to the net of disadvantage that many poor and uneducated women face every day ."

While previous studies have examined how common multiple partner fertility is among younger women, or among women who live in urban areas, the research by Dorius is the first to assess prevalence among a national sample of U.S. women who have completed their child-bearing years.

Dorius analyzed data on nearly 4,000 U.S. women who were interviewed more than 20 times over a period of 27 years, as part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The data included detail on individual men in each household, capturing what demographers call "relationship churning." For nonresidential relationships, Dorius triangulated information from mother and child reports to establish common paternity.

She found that by different fathers was more common among minority women, with 59 percent of African American mothers, 35 percent of Hispanic mothers and 22 percent of white mothers reporting multiple partner fertility. Women who were not living with a man when they gave birth and those with low income and less education were also more likely to have children by different men.

But she also found that multiple partner fertility is surprisingly common at all levels of income and education and is frequently tied to marriage and divorce rather than just single parenthood.

"I was a year into this project before I realized that my mother was one of these women," Dorius said. "We tend to think of women with multiple partner fertility as being only poor single with little education and money, but in fact at some point, most were married, and working, and going to school, and doing all the things you're supposed to do to live the American Dream ."

Family researchers first began studying multiple partner fertility by exploring how men 'swap families' after having a child with a new partner, or reduce their financial support and physical involvement with nonresidential biological children when their ex-partners live with, or marry, someone new.

"Raising children who have different fathers is a major factor in the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage," Dorius said. "Juggling all the different needs and demands of fathers in at least two households, four or more pairs of grandparents, and two or more children creates a huge set of chronic stressors that families have to deal with for decades."

Explore further: Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mothers trade child quantity for quality

Jan 23, 2008

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have shown that mothers are choosing to have fewer children in order to give their children the best start in life, but by doing so are going against millenia of human evolution. ...

More Men Tackle Household Tasks

Mar 07, 2008

American men are helping with chores and child care more than ever, a trend that ultimately contributes to healthier marriages, according to a researcher at the University of California, Riverside.

Divorce reduces chance of new, successful relationship

Sep 07, 2007

After a separation or divorce the chances of marrying or cohabiting again decrease. In particular, a previous marriage or children from a previous relationship, reduce the chances of a new relationship. Moreover, the prospects ...

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

Dec 18, 2014

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

Dec 18, 2014

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

Dec 18, 2014

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Moebius
1 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2011
This has to be an April's Fool article, it's impossible for a woman to have a child from two different men.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (3) Apr 01, 2011
Now we just need an article explaining why most American women between the ages of 35-45 are hopeless flakes...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.