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U.S. News Archive
December 13 - December 19, 1999

 

 

 
 

 

This page contains news for the period Monday, December 13, 1999 through Sunday, December 19, 1999.

 

 

 

 

<<   December 1999  >>

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Sunday, December 19, 1999

Mothers' behavior as a teen, rather than her later divorce, may predict problem behavior of her children

A story published today by Eureka Express, based on a press release from the American Medical Association, reports that new research suggests that divorce, in and of itself, does not necessarily lead to children's problem behavior. Rather, the research paper concludes that a mothers' delinquency prior to marriage predicts divorce 14 years in the future and accounts for many of the behavior problems found among children after divorce.

As the story notes, many politicians and others keep asking about the effect of divorce on children? Do children of divorce experience problems because of the divorce, or was the children's problem behavior present before the marital separation?

The new study, "Delinquent Behavior, Future Divorce or Nonmarital Childbearing, and Externalizing Behavior Among Offspring: A 14-Year Prospective Study," published in the December 1999 issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Family Psychology was written by Robert E. Emery, Ph.D., Mary C. Waldron, Ph.D., and Jeffrey Aaron, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia; and Katherine M. Kitzmann, Ph.D., of the University of Memphis.

The study is based on the authors' review of data on 1,204 mothers and their children drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) -- Child Sample. The NLSY research began in 1979 and assessed young men and women (ages 14-21) on demographics, education and employment. Various psychological measures were also taken of the participants, including self-reports of delinquent behavior. By 1986, 3,322 of the women in the study had given birth to 5,876 children. Assessments of these children have continued biennially.

According to the story, the authors found that the female adolescents' delinquent activities in 1980 significantly predicted their divorced status in 1994. In addition, the mother's current age, as well as her age when she had her first child, were both related to children's externalizing behavior, such that younger mothers had children who exhibited more behavioral difficulties. Also, a mother's delinquent behavior as a teenager --abusing drugs, being delinquent at school and having contact with the criminal justice system -- was positively correlated with her age when she had her first child and her poverty status in both 1980 and 1994.

The link between a mother's prior delinquent behavior and her child's present problem behavior (defined as antisocial behavior, anxious or depressed behavior, social withdrawal or engaging in high amounts of parental conflict) remained strong even when the mother's current marital status and other demographic factors were taken into account statistically.

As a result, the authors conclude, parents' personal behavior and personality characteristics have a larger impact on their children's behavior than does their married, never married, or divorced status.

"Parental antisocial behavior is a good candidate among a host of behavioral and personality variables that might lead to nonrandom selection into single parent status and, thereby, explain the association between divorce or nonmarital childbirth and children's behavior problems," write the authors. The authors suggest that there are factors that "predispose families to both divorce and to having troubled children."

The study did not track the behavior patterns of fathers when they were teenagers, or the effects of such behavior patterns on their children in later years.

 

Friday, December 17, 1999

Illinois court denies lesbian visitation rights to child of former partner

A story published today in the Chicago Sun Times reports that a the Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that a Georgia lesbian has no legal right to visit her former lover's daughter.

"Amanda," who never had adopted the child, claimed she was a "common-law . . . parent" based upon her relationship with "Helen," the 5-year-old girl's biological mother.

But Justice John N. Hourihane upheld a Cook County court decision ruling that "Amanda" had no legal right under Illinois law to visit the child, who lives with "Helen" and her husband in a Chicago suburb. It was the first case of its kind in Illinois.

The story notes that "Amanda" and "Helen" never were identified by their full names in court records.

"Amanda" is "completely heartbroken since she faces the prospect that she may never see her daughter again," said her attorney, Heather Sawyer of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

"Helen" was "relieved that the court's decision allows her to make decisions about what is in her child's best interest and with whom she should associate," said her attorney, Leon Finkel.

Whether an unmarried partner should get visitation rights to a child who is not biologically related is an issue that must be decided by state legislators, Hourihane wrote.

"This court is not unmindful of the fact that our evolving social structures have created nontraditional relationships," he wrote. "This court, however, has no authority to ignore the manifest intent of our General Assembly."

The story says that during their nine-year relationship, "Amanda" and "Helen" decided to have a child, so "Helen" became pregnant through artificial insemination. "Amanda" attended the birth and helped raise the child while they were living in Georgia.

When "Helen" and her daughter moved to Chicago, "Amanda" continued to support the child. When the girl was 3 years old, "Helen" married and terminated all contact with "Amanda."


American Medical Association rejects abstinence-only sex-ed programs

A story released today by U.S. Newswire reports that a group known as Advocates for Youth has applauded the American Medical Association (AMA) for taking a stand on the effectiveness of  school-based condom distribution.

The AMA has adopted a position against sex education programs which rely solely on the promotion of abstinence until marriage.  It favors abstinence-plus programs which teach birth control methods along with the promotion of abstinence.

The story says that the AMA's policy acknowledges the reality that 70 percent of all teenagers in the United States have had sex by age 18.

Citing congressional programs that prohibit information on contraception, Advocates president James Wagoner condemned the politics of censoring sexuality education. "Ignorance is nobody's ally in the era of AIDS. What politicians need to realize is that denying young people critical information about contraception is not only naive and short-sighted, but irresponsible and dangerous," said Wagoner.

The story says that the AMA position has reinforced what various studies and extensive research have already shown, that comprehensive sexuality education -- which teaches about both abstinence and contraception -- is the most effective sex education for young people. Those who receive this kind of education are more likely to begin having sex later and to use protection correctly and consistently when they do become sexually active.

Wagoner called on politicians to stop allowing their political agendas to censor sexuality information from teens. "Despite high numbers of teen births, HIV infection and teen abortion rates; despite the scientific research that shows what works; Congress is still denying our young people critical information about contraception that could protect their health and save their lives," said Wagoner. "This is a classic case of U.S. politicians putting their agendas before the health and needs of our young people. And it has to stop," he continued.

"The research is clear. Young people need information about abstinence and contraception. It's not either/or -- they need both," said Wagoner.

The story says that Advocates for Youth is an international, nonprofit organization that creates programs and supports policies that help young people make safe, responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

 

Thursday, December 16, 1999

Study Finds that large cities have higher unmarried birth rates

A story released today by U.S. Newswire reports that babies born in the nation's top 50 cities are more likely to be born to unmarried women than the national average.

In the average large city, 43 percent of total births occurred to unmarried women, compared to a national average of 32.4 percent. In the cities, that percentage ranged from a high of 71.6 percent in Detroit to a low of 24.5 percent in Honolulu.

The study, Kids Count Special Report reviewed birth certificate data for more than 750,000 babies born in large cities in 1997. The report is the first comprehensive study of large cities based on data drawn from birth certificates.


Detroit leads U.S. in unwed moms

A story published in the Detroit News reports that according to a study to be released today, Detroit led the nation's largest cities in births to unmarried mothers in 1997.

While 43 percent of the births in the 50 largest U.S. cities are to unmarried mothers, nearly 72 percent of Detroit's children were born out of wedlock, according to the most recent Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

"Wow, that's a staggering difference," exclaimed Dr. Ganesh Konduri, a neonatologist at Children's Hospital of Michigan, who has treated many single mothers.

Konduri is one of many experts who believe that, while single motherhood itself is not necessarily harmful to children, the poverty that often accompanies it is.

Studies show that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to have health problems, drop out of school, get pregnant as teens, commit crimes, join the welfare system or fall victim to other social ills.

"A single mother is more likely to be poor based on the fact there is only a single income," he said. "There is limited access to health care and prenatal care. There are a number of problems that could come up during the pregnancy, like hypertension and diabetes, that could lead to problems for the baby."

Jane Zehnder-Merrell, senior research associate at the Michigan League for Human Services, which helped compile the Kids Count report, said Detroit's high rate of out-of-wedlock births should not be attributed solely to teenagers. Births to teens have declined in Detroit and Michigan during the '90s.

Many believe Detroit stands out in this statistic because of economics and the lack of good paying jobs. Detroiters aren't getting married because they can't afford to raise families, but they haven't stopped having sex.

Detroit City Councilman Nicholas Hood III, pastor of the Plymouth United Church of Christ, believes a large number of the out-of-wedlock births are not accidents.

"I've talked to a number of women, and they still have maternal instincts and they have indicated to me they want to have a child. They wanted to be married but felt the prospects weren't there," he said. "Some of the people I've spoken with are proud they are having children."

Hood attributes the large numbers to a lack of marriageable men, particularly in the African-American community. He sees a correlation between the high number of African-American men in prison and dying from violence and the high number of out-of-wedlock births.

"There is a shortage of African-American men to women," he said.

 

Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Virginia appeals court to review constitutionality of sodomy law

A story published today in the Roanoke times reports that or the first time in 20 years, a Virginia appellate court has agreed to review the constitutionality of a state law that makes oral sex between consenting adults a felony.

Earlier this week, the Virginia Court of Appeals agreed to hear the appeals of nine men convicted of soliciting sodomy during conversations with undercover police officers posing as gay "cruisers" in Wasena Park.

The statute, referred to as the "crimes against nature" law, applies to all consenting adults, whether heterosexual or homosexual, who engage in oral sex in public or in private.

"I'm just optimistic that the Virginia appellate courts will not begin the 21st century by doing something that no state appellate court has done in a decade, namely, to uphold a sodomy statute that criminalizes all oral sex indiscriminately," said Roanoke attorney Sam Garrison, who represents the nine men.

The three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals will hear arguments next year.

According to the story, legal observers say the mere fact that the intermediate appellate court agreed to hear the case is encouraging news for those who say it is time for Virginia to join the growing list of states that have abolished their anti-sodomy laws.

In a 45-page petition to the Court of Appeals, Garrison paints the case as not just a gay issue but one that affects "the fundamental right of 4.5 million adult Virginians to be free from governmental intrusion into areas where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy."

The appeal challenges Virginia's centuries-old law on several grounds: that it violates privacy rights guaranteed by both state and federal Constitutions; that it is based on religious grounds and thus violates the separation of church and state; and that its potential five-year prison sentence subjects defendants to cruel and unusual punishment.

Thirty years ago, all 50 states had laws that forbade consensual oral sex. Today, Virginia is one of 17 states with such a law still on the books.


Divorce rate high among bible belt couples

A story released today by ABCnews.com reports that for couples who decide to marry in Oklahoma, their chances of spending their lives together are among the worst in the nation.

Oklahoma’s high divorce rate is particularly embarrassing for a state that is mostly Christian, in which 70 percent of people go to church at least twice a month.

"It’s not good," says Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, "and it’s embarrassing and it’s inexcusable and it certainly should not survive." Religious leaders agree.

"Our faith certainly teaches that divorce is not a good thing," says Anthony Jordon, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, "that marriage ought to be held sacred. And there is a wide gap between faith and practice. And, yes, I take some responsibility for that."

The story says that part of the divorce-rate problem is that couples get married so young. For example, Shannon Vater was married at 20, divorced at 23.

"This is the Bible Belt," Vater says. "There is a lot of social pressure, and a lot of family pressure is the main thing. You don’t want to disappoint your family or make your family look bad in front of the community."

As the story points out, there is pressure from the church especially when a baby is on the way. For instance, Erik Thomas was 22 when he got married and it lasted only three years.

"We started dating and she became pregnant and felt that the best thing to do was to get married," Thomas says. "The right thing to do, of course, for a guy when he gets a girl pregnant is to marry her and take care of them. We gave that a shot."

Oklahoma State University Professor David Fournier says youth and pregnancy alone help explain the state’s high divorce rate.

"Nationally, we know that the younger the couple at the time they get married, the higher the risk later," Fournier says. "If you add pregnancy to that, the numbers go to 90 percent chance of not making it. People change tremendously from the time they are 19 until the time they are in the mid-20s, and it’s really tough on a marriage to go through those personal changes as well as job changes, education and other things."

The article says that Oklahoma couples tend to have short engagements, often with little or no premarital counseling from the church.

"We knew it was the right thing. I mean I got the heavenly message and she was the one for me," one teenage groom says. "I knew right when I met him," his young bride says. "I’m more mature for my age than a lot of people are. So, I knew."

"I discussed it a couple times with my pastor … and he says, ‘What are you waiting for, do it!’ So that was all the premarital counseling I needed, I guess," says the young groom.

 

Tuesday, December 14, 1999

Series considers lives of married and unmarried women in New Jersey suburbs

In a series of three articles beginning today, the Star-Ledger explores the lives of married, divorced and single women who live in the suburbs in New Jersey. The paper conducted a series of round-table discussions with women in various parts of the state.

The participants were selected by the paper from those who responded to its survey last month asking readers to assess their sexual attitudes and relationships in the context of living in suburbia. Though they represent a range of life experiences, maturity levels and sexual preference, the women who were interviewed said they felt the suburbs present challenges to finding and building relationships, even though they enjoy its safety, open space and sense of community.

Single and divorced women told the paper they long for more places to socialize, and bemoan the traveling distances from one place to another. Married women said they are sometimes frustrated with being stereotyped.

To read the full story on the roundtable discussions:

* with the single women, click here.

* with the divorced women, click here.

* with the married women, click here.


One-third of U.S. schools push abstinence and criticize birth control

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that in one school out of three, American teenagers are not just encouraged to abstain from sex, they are taught that abstinence is the only appropriate option and that birth control is too risky to bother with. The story is based on to two national surveys which were released today.

These "abstinence-only" policies teach students that they should wait until marriage to have sex. The policies leave out any discussion of birth control to prevent pregnancy or transmission of HIV and other diseases – except to talk about the shortcomings of such methods.

The story notes that most other schools have chosen "abstinence-plus" programs that discourage premarital sex but suggest the use of contraception for students who choose to have it anyway.

Abstinence long has been promoted by conservative and religious organizations who argue that talking about birth control sends teenagers a mixed message, suggesting that premarital sex is really acceptable. The welfare overhaul legislation that President Clinton signed in 1996 included a five-year, $250 million program for abstinence-only programs.

Today's reports are the first to document how widespread abstinence-only programs have become in American schools, which are a central source of sexuality education.

The first survey, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, asked secondary school principals about their sex-ed programs and found 34 percent had abstinence-only as the main message.

The second study, conducted independently by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, surveyed superintendents about district policies and found 35 percent of those with policies teach abstinence as the only option.

These programs can be found across the country, but they are most prevalent in the South and least common in the Northeast.

"We teach that abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage is the expected social standard for unmarried, school-aged persons," said Stephen Pryor, spokesman for the Mobile County, Ala., public schools. The district, he explained, follows the mandate set by the state.

According to the story, 15 states require that schools teach abstinence until marriage, and 13 require lessons about contraception. Some require both.

Most schools include a discussion of both abstinence and birth control.

In 1995, 66 percent of teenagers reported having sex by the time they graduated from high school.

The Guttmacher study suggests that school districts have moved closer to abstinence education in the past several years. While there was no net increase in the number of districts with abstinence-only policies, many districts moved from a policy that made no value judgment about abstaining from sex to one that promotes abstinence as the preferred option.

Research about the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs has been inconclusive, partly because they have not been around long enough to allow for rigorous research. There is some evidence that abstinence-plus programs can help prevent teen pregnancy.

The story says that most Americans seem to support programs that promote abstinence and give information about contraception. A 1997 poll by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that 95 percent of Americans say it is important for society to send teens a strong abstinence message. But just 22 percent of people said teens should not have access to birth control.


U.S. found to have highest teen birth and abortion rates of all industrialized nations

A story released today by U.S. Newswire reports that the results of a recent study tour to the Netherlands, France and Germany by Advocates for Youth found that the rates of HIV/AIDS and teen births and abortions drastically lower in those European countries than in the United States.

The United States has 13 times the teen birth rate of the Netherlands, 25 times the gonorrhea rate of Germany, and three times the teen abortion rate of France.

The tour found that these rates are so much lower in these countries because of Europe's realistic and healthy attitude toward sex. Sexuality information and confidential contraceptive access is widely available to young people there.

The story notes that despite these staggering numbers, Congress continues to throw more taxpayer money into sexuality education that teaches abstinence until marriage as the only way to prevent HIV and teen pregnancy.

According to James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, "Ignorance is nobody's ally in the era of AIDS. What the United States needs to realize is that denying young people important information about contraception is not only naive and shortsighted, but irresponsible and dangerous. The research is clear. Young people need realistic, accurate sexuality education which includes information on both abstinence and contraception."

Advocates for Youth is an international, nonprofit organization that creates programs and supports policies that help young people make safe, responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.


How unmarried co-owners can avoid problems if they break up

A story published today in the Orlando Sentinel discusses problems often faced by unmarried people if they buy a house together and then later break up.

The article focuses on a Florida couple as an example.

Jim Martin, an executive of Disney's Animal Kingdom, loved the two-bedroom house he purchased in Colonialtown with his partner for $107,000 on Halloween 1997. With its wooden floors and fireplace, the home was so dear to him that he resisted ending his relationship with its co-owner.

"I was very attached to the house," Martin told the Sentinel. "My biggest fear in the relationship was I would lose the house."

The story notes that Martin is part of the nation's fastest-growing segment of buyers - singles. And, like Martin, many of those buyers have learned that they don't have to be married to have a nice house. By pooling their down-payment cash and income with a friend, relative or significant other, they're able to pack up their apartments and move into permanent addresses.

As the first generation to share property deeds but not marriage licenses, unmarried couples are forced to tread carefully through the purchase process.

The law doesn't look out for them the way it does for a husband and wife. For instance, when one spouse dies, the widow or widower becomes the owner of the house under the most common type of house title, joint tenancy with right of survivorship. But when a single homeowner dies, the roommate may be left out in the cold.

And when a married couple divorces, the settlement determines what happens to the house. But when an unmarried couple breaks up, the question of homeownership can become a free-for-all.

In Martin's case, the reasons to get out of the relationship eventually outweighed the need to keep the house. In March, he and his partner decided to break up. They put the house on the market and waited. Martin said sharing the space after the breakup was awkward "but not horrible."

Although the two "got along after we broke up, we really needed to get out of the house," Martin said.

The story says they sold the house in August for $20,000 more than they had paid for it. Martin, who had the most invested in the house, used the sale proceeds to pay off the debt that had accumulated in the past few years.

As the article notes, not all unmarried co-owners are so lucky. They can end up bickering over repair costs, closing expenses and moving arrangements. One can split, leaving the other unable to pay the mortgage. Then, both of their credit reports can become ruined.

The key to two unmarried people buying a house together is to resolve any problems before they arise, Orlando attorney Tom Olsen said. Plan for the worst-case scenario even when the relationship seems everlasting, he said.

First, buyers should decide who will own the house. Olsen said one of his clients was engaged to be married and wanted to purchase a house with her fiance. Even though her parents paid for most of the down payment, she wanted her fiance to be included on the title of the house as a co-owner.

Olsen advised against it.

"I told her, `Look, since you're coming up with the bulk of the down payment and there's always room for things to go wrong, let's put it in your name. You can always add his name down the road.' "

Of course, telling a bride-to-be to plan for the demise of her relationship can be a little cold.

But Olsen said unmarried buyers should have a plan in case things don't turn out as they had hoped. He said it's like signing a prenuptial agreement, which determines what the husband and wife are entitled to if they divorce.

Though the woman decided to keep the house in her own name, some couples insist on having both names on the title. In those cases, the story suggest that unmarried co-buyers should consider several ownership options.

They can purchase the house and hold title as tenants in common. Under this form of ownership, the property is owned collectively. If one person dies, the decision about what will become of the house will be determined in the deceased owner's last will and testament.

They can hold title as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Under this title, the survivor becomes the sole owner. The survivor must still pay monthly mortgage bills and is entitled to the equity. It's similar to the way the law treats married couples.

Unmarried buyers are increasingly opting for a partnership agreement, said Orlando attorney Barry L. Miller, who owns the Closing Agent title company in Orlando. He said 25 percent of his company's business is with unmarried couples.

The document is a road map detailing how an eventual house sale would be organized. It can determine who would pay for expenses, the mortgage, taxes and utilities. In case one of the owners would want to buy out the other, the agreements typically have provisions for three appraisals to determine how much one partner must pay to purchase the other partner's interest in the house.

In case the unmarried co-owners would ever split apart and one would be left paying the mortgage, the agreement may call for the buyer who did not pay the mortgage to give up part of the proceeds of the sale.

And if one of the buyers would ever be left paying the mortgage for six months, the agreement may call for the house to be listed for sale. To save on possible attorney fees, the agreements can call for the two owners to go to legal mediation and then arbitration to resolve problems without going to court, said Miller, a state-certified court mediator.

Of course, not all unmarried buyers establish the ground rules ahead of time with a partnership agreement. When two such owners break up and one wants his or her name taken off the deed, they can file a suit for partition, said Olsen, who has a radio program on real estate law.

"That means that any one of the owners can go to court and force the property to be sold," Olsen said.

As the article points out, such ugly endings may be the last thing on a couple's mind during a budding romance.

"In the beginning, you never want to think that something will fail . . . but the saddest thing is when you have to sell or help someone sell a house they really loved," Miller said.

 

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