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U.S. News Archive
January 14 - January 20, 2002

 

 

 
This page contains news for the period January 14, 2002 through January 20, 2002.  

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Sunday, January 20, 2002

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New York bishop attacks state’s proposed quick marriage bill

A story published today by Buffalo News reports that Buffalo’s top Catholic leader has said that the new proposal to increase area tourism by allowing quick marriages in Niagara Falls risks "human wreckage."

Immediately after reading Saturday's Buffalo News article about a plan to abolish the 24-hour waiting period between issuance of marriage licenses and the wedding ceremonies, Bishop Henry J. Mansell issued a sharp rebuke to the state legislators who are supporting the plan.

The bill - which state legislators and tourism officials say could funnel millions of dollars into the local economy each year - encourages couples to circumvent long-term planning, such as discussion of finances, children and lifestyle, Mansell said.

Whirlwind, Las Vegas-style weddings destroy the sacred covenant and responsibility that many religions teach to accompany marriage, he said. If passed through the State Legislature, the bill would allow marriage licenses to be sold at satellite locations outside of City Hall, after normal business hours.

The consequences of these quick nuptials could prove disastrous, said Mansell, whose letter cited depression, alcohol and drug abuse, dysfunctional children, crime and poverty as "amply documented" consequences of hasty marriages.

George M. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, a co-sponsor of the bill called the bishop’s criticism "out of left field."

"I don't think a 24-hour wait versus no wait at all will really make all that much difference," Maziarz said. "And I really doubt that keeping it the same way will resolve all of the problems in society that the bishop describes."

Maziarz and his colleagues in the Legislature hope such a law would give the so-called Honeymoon Capital of the World a fresh appeal.

And that, Mansell said, is precisely the problem - despite the Falls' economic troubles.

"It would put the focus just on Niagara Falls, on going there to get married," he said. "It's more than that - there's a whole lifetime of marriage to think about."

 

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Bush administration pushing for healthy marriages

A story published today by the Washington Times reports that Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Health and Human Services Department, said that the Bush administration is committed to promoting marriage and strengthening families.

Speaking before a seminar that was focusing on the need for a marriage revival, Horn said that because "healthy" marriages are associated with child well-being and a prosperous society, "we should not seek to simply be neutral about marriage."

Government should be clear that it's not interested in forcing people into marriage, serving as a matchmaking service, withdrawing support for single parents or trapping people in abusive relationships, Mr. Horn said. Government also should not devalue marriage by equating it with cohabiting or encourage unhealthy marriages, he said.

But what government should do through incentives and other approaches is encourage "healthy marriages or, in Diane Sollee's words, 'smart marriages,'" Mr. Horn said, referring to the organizer of the nation's largest annual conference on marriage.

Mr. Horn also noted that just last week, President Bush signed the reauthorization of the federal Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program, which now clarifies that its funds can be used for marriage education and marriage enrichment programs.

 

Friday, January 18, 2002

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Dads can really make a difference in their children's lives


A story published today by the Lincoln Journal Star reports that the Fatherhood Coalition at Northeast Family Center in Lincoln, Nebraska is a newly formed coalition that supports fathers who are struggling to figure out what it means to be a dad, a partner and a provider.

The newly formed coalition's goals are simple: To support and empower fathers. To celebrate fathers' irreplaceable influence on their children. To help fathers through the murky times - colic, teething, spelling tests, puberty, first loves and peer pressure. To give dads permission to put their kids first. To say it's OK to beg off a night-time business meeting or openly decline a night out with the guys, so you can help your son race his Pinewood Derby car or watch your preschooler in her ballet recital.

This is a program that says responsible and committed fathers are not only critical for the well-being of children, but for the community.

Funded through a grant from the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln, the Fatherhood Initiative is supported by numerous community agencies including the YWCA, Planned Parenthood, Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, Parents as Teachers, Lancaster County Abstinence Coalition, The Mediation Center, Lincoln Medical Educational Foundation, Head Start, ARC and Northeast Family Center.

A fact that only recently scientists and policy makers have agreed on: Growing up without daddy can have lifelong repercussions:

Underachievement in school.

Drug abuse

Youth suicide

Delinquency

Crime

Poverty

"If you look at all the data, there is one fact that cuts across all the social ills and negative outcomes affecting children, and that is father absences," said Jeff Rosenberg, director of media relations with the Fatherhood Initiative's national office in Gaithersburg, Md.

The Fatherhood Initiative promotes the belief "that all men can rise to their greatest potential as husbands and fathers," said Rosenberg. "Men are encouraged to be in the lives of their children so that they can teach and model important values."

That means the role of dads cannot be dismissed - even dads who are in prison or dads who do not have custody of their kids.

"The Fatherhood Initiative believes that when men have regular access to their children they are more likely to demonstrate love, model effective behaviors and interact with their children in a healthy manner," said Bret Corbridge, director of the Northeast Family Center's Fatherhood Initiative Program.

But Corbridge, who is a marriage and family therapist, sees far too many dads who do not have regular access to their children. Dads who are angry, concerned and financially strapped by a system that does not place equal importance on their role in raising children, he said.

"Often due to family dynamics and a flawed legal system men cannot obtain access to their children without exhaustive and expensive legal struggles," Corbridge said. "Change towards joint custody must occur at a legislative level to allow fathers greater access to their children after divorce."

But the Fatherhood Initiative is not just for single and divorced dads. It's for all dads, Corbridge said - seasoned dads, rookie dads, teen dads, incarcerated dads, dads from every culture, race and income level.

"Regardless of past mistakes and current situations, we actively seek out fathers who wish to become the best husbands and fathers that they can be," Corbridge said.

 

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Center helps mom cope with stresses of life

A story published today by the Seattle Times reports that Karin Scott of North Bend, Washington remembers the desperation and fear. Her marriage was falling apart and working long hours trying to make ends meet has taken a toll on her psyche.

Exhausted, she would barricade her 3-year-old son in the living room with toys and food while she tried to sleep.

"Then one day I lost it, I went ballistic," she said tearfully. "My son, Alex, is my whole world to me. I hit him."

The next morning, the young mother walked into Children's Services of Sno-Valley and asked for help. She got help immediately. She was assigned a counselor and enrolled in parenting classes.

Four years later, Scott and her son, a bright, active and happy 7-year-old, share a small apartment in North Bend. Her divorce is pending and she works full time as a desk clerk for a major hotel chain.

"I've learned so much, thanks to Children's Services," Scott said. "Most importantly, Alex and I are together."

Through it all, Children's Services gave her hope. The counselor and classes gave her strength and the knowledge to tackle her problems.

"Children's Services is a unique organization because it provides wraparound services for the children and parents," said John Stout, executive director. "We're one-stop shopping for families in rural and suburban King County."

The nonprofit center operates programs in North Bend, Snoqualmie and Duvall. When it opened in the 1960s, Children's Services specialized in education for disabled children.

Today, more than 1,000 families a year participate in the agency's classes on early childhood education, child development, parent education and family strengthening. The agency also offers day care and family fun nights.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

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More children are growing up in single parent homes

A story published today by the Kentucky Post reports that according to a report released by 2001 Kids Count, more than 231,000 Kentucky children are growing up in single-parent households.

Twenty-four percent of the state's nearly 1 million children under age 18 lived in a single-parent household in 2000, compared to 15 percent in 1980.

The figures differed sharply by race, with 22 percent of white children and 64 percent of African-American children in single-parent households in 2000.

The report linked the rise in single-parent households to the rise in births to unwed mothers, which soared from 16 percent of all births in Kentucky in 1980 to 30 percent in 2000.

The 11th annual Kentucky Kids Count report was compiled by a consortium of university researchers and child advocates. The report, drawing on state statistics and U.S. Census data for 1980, 1990 and 2000, examines trends involving family living arrangements and births.

Although the majority of Kentucky's children - 67 percent - lived in married-couple families in 2000, the increased fracturing of family structure means ongoing challenges for thousands of the state's children and the single parents who care for them.

''Each individual home is different, but generally speaking, children who live without the support of both parents are more likely to live in poverty than children in two-parent families and are more likely to encounter problems with risk-taking behavior,'' said Valerie Salley, Kids Count coordinator and a policy analyst for Kentucky Youth Advocates in Louisville. ''In addition, girls in single-parent families may be more likely to become teen-aged mothers.''

Susan Milinkovich, director of Young Families Inc. in Covington, said the challenges facing single parents are enormous.

''So many are dealing with school, working and providing for the baby with minimal support,'' she said. ''That's the first big challenge for those moms. It's a lot to juggle, especially when they're teens and lacking the maturity and losing out on some of the childhood things they should be doing at that point in their lives. They really do struggle with managing it all.''

The Kids Count report also stated that of the $345 million in child support owed to Kentucky families in 2001, only $188 million - 54 percent - was actually collected.

Ms. Milinkovich said many mothers choose not to pursue child support because they don't want the father of the baby in their lives.

''They don't want the father around for them or the baby,'' she said.

 

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How parents can destroy their children’s marriages

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that according to a Pennsylvania State University study, parents who are moody, jealous, hot headed, critical and prone to dominate their spouse have a worse effect on their children's marriage than divorced parents or poor parent-child relations.

"Children learn poor interpersonal behaviors from observing how their parents treat each other," said co-researcher Paul Amato.

The conclusions, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, are based on a study begun 21 years ago. Researchers analyzed a sample of 297 parents, comparing the quality of their marriages in 1980 with that of their children in 1997.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

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Singles scene for older men

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that dating and demographics have been much in the news lately, with a recent report that in the 30-to-44 age range, the numbers of single men and women are now about even, or in some cases, slightly tipped in women's favor, leading to men struggling with the frustrations of a woman shortage.

Not much seems to be written about older single men so the Tribune did an informal survey to see whether they're thriving or struggling on the dating scene. They found the answer is both.

"There's a certain adventure in it," says Fred Stein, 67, a business professor at Akron University, who began dating anew 13 years ago after a long marriage ended. "I've met a lot of women," he says.

Wally, 56, a nurse in Chicago who prefers not to use his last name, also says dating has been a positive experience. "I was married at 24 and divorced 13 years ago, so I'm obviously a lot older and know more what I'm looking for now," he says.

But dating bliss doesn't exist for every man or last forever. "Many older men who've been out of the loop for a while find it scary to date again. They're not sure what's expected nowadays regarding protocol, such as who pays," says Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of "The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again".

Many older men also find themselves complaining about the same issues as their female counterparts do: dates who play games, dates who embellish the truth, and dates whose personalities seem to change over the course of a relationship.

Tom Blake, 62, who writes two newspaper columns about dating says many simply haven't learned from prior mistakes. Top on many of their lists of must-haves is a desire for instant chemistry, "the fire, the giddy feeling," says Blake. "One of the reasons middle age is strewn with divorces is too much value is placed on chemistry in the early stages."

Tessina agrees. "Chemistry isn't always good and can interfere with judgment. People can develop chemistry for an ax murderer."

Neil Warren, a psychologist, author and founder of the online matchmaking service eharmony.com, says that most of the chemistry evaporates within six to eight months, unless the relationship is strengthened by deeper, more durable compatibility.

So, the proverbial question remains: What do men really want as they age?

They seek a pleasant routine, stability and compatibility, says Trish McDermott, vice president of romance at Match.com, an online site with 2 million members. But, whether a relationship will lead to marriage remains unpredictable.

McDermott thinks more women than men seek a permanent connection. Warren disagrees. "Men are extremely eager to marry. . . . They want to find someone who's everything they didn't have the first time."

The reality, however, he adds, is that second--and third--marriages often don't work that well. "Expectations go up [on both sides] and the ability to deliver goes down. Older men aren't as adaptable."

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

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No great expectation for N.C. dating service

A story published today by the Charlotte Observer reports that North Carolina singles who thought they could find love by joining Great Expectations dating service in Charlotte and Raleigh found themselves abandoned and on their own.

The two N.C. offices of the dating industry's biggest player closed abruptly late last year, jilting dozens of clients who paid thousands of dollars to join.

"They never let on they were going to close," said Anna Baldwin, 31 and a bank worker from Rock Hill, who paid $995 to join in Charlotte on Sept. 1. "I feel cheated out of a lot of money."

The Charlotte Better Business Bureau has 43 complaints against Great Expectations, most of them turned over to the N.C. Attorney General's office, which is looking into the shutdowns. The Raleigh BBB has six complaints.

Customers might get refunds because N.C. law requires dating services, health clubs and others that charge in advance to post a bond. The bonds, issued by insurers, are supposed to cover refunds if such companies close.

David Elliott, who's handling the case for the Attorney General's consumer protection unit, said there is a $250,000 bond for the Charlotte office and $200,000 in coverage for Raleigh clients.

Elliott said the office is trying to get customer records. Without them, he doesn't know how many members the clubs had or how many might be due refunds. There also may be customers who don't want to ask for refunds.

"People may be embarrassed by the services they contracted for," Elliott said. But, "if they're entitled to a refund, we're here to do everything we can."

Great Expectations is a video dating service. Members pay fees ranging from about $1,000 to more than $2,500 to join for one to three years. The company makes a video of each member, and other members can view the videos at club offices to select potential dates.

In May, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office said a Philadelphia-area Great Expectations agreed to pay $15,000 to settle complaints it used deceptive or misleading advertisements and high-pressure sales tactics to sell its services. Customers also said the company misrepresented its ability to match them with dates meeting their preferences.

 

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Post Sept. 11 myths on relationships in America

A story published today by the Las Vegas Sun reports that First lady Laura Bush was quoted saying that after September 11, divorce is down, weddings are up and "families have come together." In fact, fewer folks are taking vows and more are splitting up, says the available data.

"Divorce cases have been withdrawn at higher rates, and more people are buying engagement rings and planning weddings," the first lady told a group of New York women.

Mrs. Bush was referring to a news report out of Houston that was retracted four days before her talk. In fact, the federal government hasn't tracked divorce and marriage on a monthly basis since 1995. The only information is on the county level.

In Reno, Nev., the self-proclaimed "marriage capital of the world," Washoe County Clerk Amy Harvey rattled off numbers showing an 11 percent drop in marriage applications after Sept. 11.

In Leon County, Fla., divorces for the September-December period increased from 389 in 2000 to 415 in 2001.

After Sept. 11, "maybe people understand the importance of staying together a little better," said Richard Albertson of the Tallahassee Community Marriage Policy, a Christian counseling service that monitors its success by counting divorce dockets in the county courthouse each month. "That doesn't mean they have the tools. It takes more than a crisis for that."

Are families that are staying together coming closer together?

Maybe, if you count your pets as a dependent. Market research conducted by advertising network Euro RSCG found that, post-Sept. 11, 36 percent of American women who have dogs said they were spending more time with them. Less than 20 percent were spending more time with their husbands.

"We've got children, we've got pets," Euro RSCG's Marian Salzman said as she reviewed her most recent polling, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. "I don't know who's enjoying time with spouses."

 

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Women's rights group urges military institute to rescind family status policy

A story published today by the Roanoke Times reports that the National Women's Law Center has sent Virginia Military Institute a three-page letter Monday condemning the school's new policy against marriage and parenthood among students.

The policy, which took effect Monday, states that students who are married or who become pregnant or cause a pregnancy must resign or be "separated" from the corps of cadets for failing to meet eligibility requirements.

The letter, addressed to VMI Superintendent Josiah Bunting , called the policy illegal under Title IX, a federal anti-gender discrimination law that states a student cannot be barred from any academic program because of pregnancy. The policy also violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, the letter claims.

"VMI's policy is neither neutral nor justified," wrote Jocelyn Samuels, vice president and director of education for the Washington, D.C.- based women's rights group. "It was adopted to, and does, treat female students differently on the basis of sex."

VMI cadets long have been forbidden to marry, but after certifying upon admission they are not married, rarely are asked about it again. Samuels said that is evidence the new policy is directed at women.

"Their allegation that we have not enforced our existing marriage policy is absolutely false," VMI spokesman Chuck Steenburgh said.

The Virginia Attorney General's office helped devise the new policy, and the school would not have adopted it if it were not defensible, Steenburgh said.

"We certainly value the advice of our legal advisers above a group such as this."

The policy does not preclude separated cadets applying for readmission at a later date, Steenburgh said. The college will handle each case on an individual basis.

 

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New study shows link between illness and divorce

A story published today by the New York Daily News reports that several years ago, Dr. Michael J. Glantz, a brain cancer specialist, was struck by what appeared to be an extraordinary number of divorces and separations among his patients who had primary brain tumors that were expected to kill them within 15 months.

So Glantz, who works at Brown University in Providence, R.I., began keeping track. This year, he reported his preliminary findings at the conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

To the surprise of his colleagues, he says, he found that of 183 cases in which the patient was married at the time of diagnosis, there were 17 divorces or separations, an overall rate of roughly 9%, within about a year. More important, he says, was the asymmetry of these divorces: In 14 of the 17 breakups, or 82%, it was the woman who had cancer.

To see whether this was tied to something particularly stressful about brain cancer (which can alter personality and cognitive function), Glantz also studied two other groups: 107 married patients with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that is not usually fatal, and 172 married patients with cancers that neither arose in nor had spread to the brain.

Divorces in those cases, too, he found, disproportionately occurred when it was the wife who was sick — 96% of the cases with MS, 78% of the cases of systemic cancer. One rather unappealing interpretation is obvious: that women hang in there with sick husbands, while men bail out on sick wives.

"If the marriage is pretty good, the couple gets closer" when one has cancer, says Dr. Jimmie Holland, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral science at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. "If the marriage was teetering before, it gets harder. They are the ones at most risk."

Laurel Northouse, Ph.D., who studies the impact of cancer on couples at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, has studied couples in which the wife has breast cancer. She has found not only that the divorce rate within the first 12 months of diagnosis is a fairly low 3% to 4%, but that sometimes it's the woman who decides not to spend whatever time she has left with a man she no longer loves.

A divorce soon after cancer may look "like the husband is leaving her, but she may be saying, 'Enough already,'" says Northouse.

In a study of colon cancer published last year, she adds, female caregivers of men with cancer actually reported more distress than did their husbands. One reason for that, she suspects, is that when husbands become caregivers, they are often seen as heroes doing more than society expects.

"Nobody brings casseroles to women when their husbands are sick because people assume a woman can do the caretaking, that she's a natural caregiver," she says. "But women need help, too."

On the other hand, when men become caregivers, they often don't ask for the support they need because they may be too stoic, says Betty Ferrell, a nurse-researcher at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif. Men "really do feel the financial burden. They feel they must try to keep things normal, to keep going to work."

The downside of this business-as-usual approach, she says, is that men can wind up in denial mode, whereas the women stop and address the reality and say, 'We need help.'"

The bottom line is that when a life-threatening disease strikes, the marriage needs attention, as well as the disease itself, says psychologist David Cella of Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. "It's very easy for people to put all the attention on the treatment. But some attention should be spared to focus on the couple."

Monday, January 14, 2002

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New study says negative impact of divorce exaggerated

A story published today by USA Today reports that A new study to be published this month says that the negative impact of divorce on both children and parents has been exaggerated and that only about one-fifth of youngsters experience any long-term damage after their parents break up.

After studying almost 1,400 families and more than 2,500 children -- some of them for three decades -- trailblazing researcher E. Mavis Hetherington finds that about 75% to 80% of children from divorced homes are ''coping reasonably well and functioning in the normal range.'' Eventually they are able to adapt to their new lives.

About 70% of kids in stepfamilies are ''pretty happy,'' Hetherington says. And 40% of couples in stepfamilies were able to build ''stable, reasonably satisfying marriages.''

Hetherington is publishing her relatively positive findings in For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, $26.95), out Jan. 21. Her co-author is journalist John Kelly. The summation of her life's work is long awaited by polarized academics -- and aimed at clearing up confusion among moms and dads worried about divorce.

Hetherington, whose research methods are regarded by her peers as the gold standard, is professor emeritus in the department of psychology at the University of Virginia. She writes:

* The vast majority of children within two years after their parents' divorce ''are beginning to function reasonably well again.''

* Most young adults from divorced families were ''behaving the way young adults were supposed to behave, choosing careers, developing permanent relationships, ably going about the central tasks of young adulthood.''

* For every young adult from a divorced family that is having social, emotional or psychological problems, four others are functioning well. Most divorced women ''manage to provide the support, sensitivity and engagement their children need for normal development.'' Single moms ''deserve a prize'' for their efforts, she says. ''Many of them are real heroes.''

* Women tend to come out of divorce better than men, despite the financial dilemmas many experience. ''A subset of our women and girls turned out to be more competent, able people than if they had stayed in unhappy family situations.''

Hetherington's new book comes at a pivotal time. The divorce rate actually has dropped slightly in the 1990s, from a high of more than 50% of new marriages ending in divorce to about 43% currently. But for most experts, the numbers still are unacceptably high.

Few criticize Hetherington outright. But even as many tip their hats to her, the disapproving already are lining up.

David Blankenhorn, one skeptic, is the author of Fatherless America and a leader of the growing ''marriage movement,'' which seeks to reduce the number of marriages that end in divorce.

Hetherington's book will stoke ''a sort of backlash,'' Blankenhorn says. ''We have made so much progress in the last 10 years in what I would call realism about divorce. Reputable scholars have led a trend away from a kind of 'happy talk' approach to divorce. Even the title of her book says something: that we are reconsidering divorce, the fact that divorce is harmful to children.'' He takes issue with those like Hetherington who believe, he says, that ''we shouldn't worry so much'' or that ''the kids will be fine.''

Linda Waite, sociologist at the University of Chicago and co-author of The Case for Marriage, questions one of Hetherington's key findings, that perhaps the surest way for a child of divorce to avoid a divorce himself is to marry someone from an intact family. ''Then what she is really saying is that if you are a divorced person, nobody should marry your child,'' Waite says.

When one goes deeper into Hetherington's wide-ranging book, some alarming findings do emerge:

* 70% of young people from divorced families see divorce as an acceptable solution, even if children are present. Marriage is forever ''if things work out.'' Only 40% from intact families do.

* Fewer than 20% of young adult stepchildren feel close to their stepmoms. The divorce rate in remarriages is greater than those in first marriages, frequently because the stepmother is unpopular: She is often caught in the middle, expected to be nurturers of sometimes difficult and suspicious children.

* Men and boys adjust emotionally less well after a divorce in the family than women and girls. Divorced men do poorly alone and remarry quickly, while boys become challenges to the single moms they tend to live with, often losing touch with dads.

Still, most children of divorce make it through. Rather than thinking about ''the inevitability of any one kind of outcome of divorce,'' Hetherington hopes readers think about the ''diversity of outcomes. What is striking is that we go from those who are totally defeated, mired in depression and poverty, to these ebullient, happy, satisfied people making wonderful contributions to their families and society.''

 

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Georgia experiencing an increase in unwed mothers

A story published today by the Augusta Chronicle reports that for more than 20 years, Dorothy Rhodes, a county health department worker has seen the cycle continue in Taliaferro county: generations of children born to single mothers. So when her county came up fourth in Georgia for percentage of births to single moms, she wasn't surprised.

Taliaferro isn't the only local county in the top 10. Hancock County tops the list, Warren is ranked third, Burke is ranked ninth, and Jefferson is ranked 10th.

The counties are part of the good news-bad news story of out-of-wedlock births in Georgia. While unmarried teen-agers are having children less often - Georgia's teen birth rates declined from third highest in the nation in 1992 to sixth highest by 1999 - single women 20 and older are becoming mothers more often.

And that's driving up the state's birth rate to unwed mothers.

Thirty-seven percent of all Georgia babies in 1999 were born to unwed mothers, up from 32 percent in 1989, according to the Georgia Department of Human Resources.

In the counties ranked in the top 10, at least 61 percent of births were to single mothers. In Hancock County, the top-ranked county, that number was 81 percent.

The population of eight of the 10 counties - including all five near Augusta - is more than half black, nearly double the state average in the 2000 census. According to single-mother statistics, blacks are three times more likely to have a child out of wedlock.

Each county is poor - very poor. Each of the counties ranks in the bottom 25 of the state in terms of poverty statistics. Burke County ranks 138th out of Georgia's 159 counties, Warren is 141st, Taliaferro is 143rd, and Jefferson is 145th. Terrell County, which ranks fifth in single-mother births, comes in the worst of the top 10 in poverty terms: It is 156th - just one place lower than Hancock County, according to The Georgia County Guide, a compilation of statistics published by the University of Georgia.

The high numbers of single-parent families mean more and more children are being born into the poverty cycle, said Doug Bachtel, a demographer for the University of Georgia's Family and Consumer Science Department.

"These kids tend to grow up and produce single-parent families themselves," he said. "A bunch end up in dysfunctional jobs or in prison - it's a cycle of poverty. They are programmed to fail."

Poverty also means some women might not have access to the educational programs and health care alternatives available to women in more affluent areas.

While Richmond County does not rank in the top 10, more than half of the births in the county are to single mothers. In 1999, 52.4 percent of births were to unwed mothers - up 10 percent from 1990. Of those, 30 percent were white and 70 percent were black.

On average, one-third of the babies in the United States are born to single moms.

"Half of all the births in Richmond County are to unwed mothers, and that's where your future labor force is coming from," Mr. Bachtel said. "It means that half of all the kids in the Richmond County public school system are from unwed mothers."

 

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