The news that Bristol Palin and fiance Levi Johnston have broken off their engagement once again focuses national attention on teens' expectations about marriage when there is a pregnancy, the proportion of teens who get married after having a child, and the viability of teen marriages themselves. Research suggests that the experience of Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston is far from rare.
• At the time of their child's birth, more than half of unmarried teen mothers say they are either "certain" or chances are "good" they will marry the biological father of their child. However, 8 out of 10 fathers don't ever marry the teen mother of their child.
• Despite high expectations for marriage, fewer than 8% of teen mothers marry their baby's father within one year of the birth of their child.
• Teenagers who have a non-marital birth are also significantly less likely to be married by the age of 35 than those who do not have babies as teens.
• Marriage among teens is rare -- in 2002 only 2.5% of teens had ever been married, compared to 11% in 1975.
• As recently as 1980, the majority of teen births (52%) were marital births. By 2002, only 20% of teen births occurred within marriage.
• Teen marriages are twice as likely to fail as marriages in which the woman is at least 25 years old.
• It is also the case that most single mothers of all ages who have a child as a result of an unplanned pregnancy remain single and most cohabiting mothers either continue cohabiting or break up with their partner.
"Marriage and birth patterns among teens have changed over time, shifting from a general trend of marrying before pregnancy, to marrying as a result of pregnancy, to becoming pregnant and not marrying," said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Even though many unmarried teen mothers have high expectations for eventually marrying the father of their child, few ever do."
1) Encourage Bristol to focus her efforts on the well being of the young child. Encourage your daughter not to infect the child with the anger at her lost love. This anger will be guaranteed to come back and haunt you in the not so distant future.
2) Bristol should accept how truly painful the breakup is. She should honor her feelings instead of trying to stuff them down, and cry if she needs to. But she should express these feelings of anger and devastation to a safe person (like loving family and friends), NOT to her ex-boyfriend.
3) Encourage your daughter to examine what happened and how the breakup occurred. Remember, it is always a two-way street ... and exploring her part in the ending of the relationship is key to having healthier and happier relationships in the future.
4) Advise her to move with grace and dignity as much as possible. Keep the fond memories and discard the painful ones. This will help when dealing with her ex regarding the child. A healthy detachment is required.
5) Seek professional help to get through the breakup if she is feeling depressed for a long period of time.
What's your advice for Sarah Palin? Comment below.
|Dr. Michelle Golland is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles with a focus on issues relating to couples, individuals, and families. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband, son and daughter.|