Thursday, September 04, 2008

Everybody's a sociologist when it comes to teen marriage: Let me follow-up on my last post with a comment on today's article in the NYT on teenage pregnancy. They took news of Palin's daughter's pregnancy as an opprtunity to remind readers how teenagers, especially girls, are doomed if they get married and have babies when they're teenagers.

What has happened to Bristol is not the best way to go, but let's use our brains for a second. First, early marriage was widespread 20 years before the divorce explosion of 1965-75. Most divorces take place in the first few years of marriage. If I get time, maybe I can look at this more closely, but I'm guessing that the divorce rate among those who married at 18 in 1950 was lower than those of people marrying at 30 nowadays. There isn't something inherent in early marriage that is conducive to divorce and failure.

Second, so many of these studies on negative outcomes assume that those who have babies as teens are in all important ways the same as those who don't. I haven't seen these studies typically control for things like IQ, talent, farsightedness, self-contol, industriousness, persistence, etc. I have read studies that have indicated that teens who have babies would have turned out poor even if they hadn't gotten pregnant.

To use a personal example, as I did in the last post. My brother got a girl pregnant when both of them were 16. He and the girl were excellent students, but their strict religious upbringing led them to have sex without confronting head-on what they were doing and what needed to be done to prevent pregnancy. (Plus, my bro was unhappy at home and irrationally thought a pregnancy might be a way out).

So the girl got pregnant. Most kids in their shoes would have gotten an abortion, but our type of people is a tad uncomfortable with slaughtering children, especially our own. Our parents and her parents pushed for adoption, but my brother and the girl told them all to go pound sand. They got married in our church 5 months before the baby was born.

Fast forward two decades. My brother has almost finished his MBA, he is the regional director over a number of large assisted-living facilities, and he makes probably three times what I make. His wife got her B.A. and was a very popular local TV news anchor for several years. Double careers were a little too much for them, so she scaled back her career a bit.

They have four beautiful children, and the oldest (the one conceived out of wedlock) has earned a 4-year full-tuition scholarship to a university where the average ACT is close to 30. He is majoring in math, and his college GPA is just about perfect.

Now, of course the sociologists would have predicted disaster for my brother and his wife. So why was the prediction wrong? Because sociologists, along with America's elites, believe that you are the product of your circumstances. If you get zapped with a baby at 17, you're done for. My bro and his wife made it because they are industrious, talented, relentless people. They would have been successful without the early marriage; they were successful with it.

If a sociologist says so, you know he can't be completely right.


Anonymous said...

Such a nice story, thanks for sharing. Not to pat ourselves too much on the back, but it seems that only on the internet, and in the evolutionary conservative corner, are these issues given more than 2-D treatment. We almost always find ourselves dealing with two erros: a. people are the same b. the variable of time is uncontrolled for.

My husband was 19 and I was 21 when we got married in the winter of '98. A honeymoon baby was born in September and four have followed since.

One other thing, I think some in this corner are allowing the MSM and others to influence their thinking about Palin and her class. True, she is middle-class and her husband is, too. However, her children are very stylishly dressed and groomed, no dowdy clothes or the like. Her husband is trim for his age unlike the vast majority of working class stiffs. Marty Peretz of The New Republic mentioned that Palin's skirt, being just above knee length (he truly did mention the length and attributed his reaction to this), reminded him of a Macy's make-up sales woman. In the two pictures of the four couples at their conventions, all four women: Palin; McCain; Biden; and Obama, have the *exact* same length of skirt.

agnostic said...

We know it can't be having a kid young that screws teen mothers here and now -- throughout modern Northern European history, marrying and having kids early tracked economic prosperity and being upper-class. You waited longer to do both if times here hard. said...