Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What to Do With Teen Parents?

Photo compliments of epSos.di
For some reason I've gotten several romance novels lately that have involved single parents, and a couple of them have had couples who, when the pregnancy test came back positive, were separated from each other by one or both sets of their parents.  It got me thinking about how our society today deals with young (lets define "young" as still dependent on their parents) couples who find themselves "in a family way".

Once upon a time, the solution to the problem was clear--a wedding was quickly planned and the baby arrived a little early.  Everyone could count to nine, and did, but a few years and a few kids, and it wasn't everyone's favorite gossip anymore.  However as divorce became more common, especially among the young and those married under pressure, waiting until the baby arrived to make decisions became more common.  As I read somewhere regarding teen pregnancy "Marriage is a permanent solution to a temporary problem".  I used to agree with that thought, now I am not so sure.

My regular readers know I am Catholic.  Most people know that the Catholic church does not recognize divorce. Most people also know divorced Catholics.  Most people have heard of Catholic annulments, even if they don't really understand them.  Without going into a treatise on Canon Law, the short story on annulments is that the Catholic church has certain criteria that must be met in order for a marriage to be valid.    While marriages that are properly performed are presumed to be valid, if a person does not wish to be married to his/her spouse, after a civil divorce, s/he can ask the Church to study his/her marriage to determine whether it met the criteria for a valid marriage, and, if it did not, to declare it null.  One of the criteria is free consent.  If you put a gun to my head and make me say marriage vows, it isn't valid because I didn't freely consent.  The Catholic church makes quickie marriages difficult to impossible these days; in part to avoid confecting marriages that are invalid due to defects in consent or lack of maturity in the spouses.  Basically it seems that the thought is that if the kids don't get married in the first place, you don't have to worry about them getting divorced down the line.

As I said earlier, I used to think that was a good approach.  However, in the last few years I've begun to wonder.  I don't think we should put inordinate pressure on these kids to get married, particularly if they don't like each other anymore. However, I know of several young couples who got pregnant.  They loved each other and stuck together throughout the pregnancy.  They moved in together and have made a home for themselves and their baby.  I daresay they slept together.  One couple married outside the Church before the baby was born, one got married in the Church when the baby was four years old; a third just had their baby and hasn't decided whether they will marry or not.  Once upon a time any parish priest would have tried to get these couples to the altar as soon as possible; now avoiding the long-term problem of divorce is seen as more important than encouraging these kids to establish a stable family into which to bring that child.  I just wonder whether our efforts to protect the sanctity of marriage have helped contribute to a culture that increasingly sees marriage as an optional, rather than ideal state, even when children are involved.

What do you think?  Should young pregnant couples be encourage to marry, or encouraged to wait until after the baby?


  1. I had a friend pregnant and giving birth just a few weeks after graduation. They waited until the following summer to get married. They have now been married for 29 years... so it can work

  2. Yes, it can. That's why I'm wondering if we as a society should nudge young couples in the marriage direction when they discover the pregnancy, rather than months (or years) later. The reality is that if these young couples decide to live together or otherwise co-parent, they are never going to be "free" of each other--once there is a child involved any future separations or breakups are likely to be a complicated as a divorce, maybe moreso. It seems to me the only good we are doing by putting off the wedding is protecting the young parents' ability to later marry in the Church and that we are doing so at the price of unlinking marriage and children.

  3. This is what I told the Bishop when the Diocese of Phoenix changed the marriage bans to be six months instead of three---in order to discourage those who are pregnant to marry within the Church....
    1) Those who make that "mistake" and still wish to marry in the Church will be discouraged by the willingness of the Church to lay all the "blame" on the woman. Women who endure this "humiliation" will find that they CAN do it on their own and be less likely to marry.
    2) It will encourage abortion- especially for white middle and upper middle class women
    3) It will encourage birth control at younger and younger ages

    4)Eventually, waiting will discourage others to put the marriage first instead of the wedding....

    I said that 36 years ago. I was in high school.

    I really didn't think that all would come true...but it did and worse. Now, people like my CATHOLIC mother have questioned both my daughter and son since they did not live together first....
    AGGGG! The Church has got it all wrong in this department...
    The pre cana is spotty at best and the six month wait for adults is silly.
    Oh well, at least mine are married and I will do everything in my power to support their decision to get married and STAY married :>)

  4. My un-pregnant daughter and fiance will be married in November when they are 21 and 22. Yes, they're getting married sooner than most. But my wife & I agree that when you know the one you will marry- you marry him. While they are in school we expect they will live with us.

  5. Anonymous8:01 AM

    If you were thinking marriage eventually anyway, by all means go ahead and marry. I think that the difference now from the good old days is that back then it was less common to have sex with someone you weren't already thinking of marrying.


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