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Middle-age women who were single when they had their first child are in worse health than similar women who were married when first giving birth, suggesting that the stress of being a single parent has long-term health consequences, a new study has found.
The report, published in American Sociological Review, is one of the first to assess the health of single mothers. Researchers analyzed data on 3,400 women taken from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which tracks the health of a nationally representative sample of people who were ages 14 to 22 when the survey started. The mothers were asked at age 40 to rate their health with a type of self-assessment considered a highly accurate indicator of health and future mortality.
Both black and white women who had children outside of marriage ranked their health as worse than women who had their first children while married.
That was not the case, however, for Hispanic single mothers, who are more likely to have children in long relationships that closely resemble marriage, the authors said.
The fndings are of concern because unmarried women account for almost 40 percent of births in the United States, up from 10 percent in 1960, said Kristi Williams, an associate professor of sociology at the Ohio State University and the paper’s lead author,.