Study: One in 5 U.S. Moms Has Kids With Multiple Dads

The obsession with women's bodies continues.

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One in five U.S. mothers has children with multiple dads.

Linda Carroll of MSNBC is reporting that one in five of all American moms have kids who have different birth fathers, a new study shows. And when researchers look only at moms with two or more kids, that figure is even higher: Twenty-eight percent have kids with at least two different men.

"To put it in perspective, this is similar to the number of American adults with a college degree," says the study's author, Cassandra Dorius, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. "It's pervasive."

Dorius' study, which was presented Friday at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, examined data from nearly 4,000 U.S. women who had been interviewed more than 20 times over a 27-year period. This phenomenon is important to study, Dorius says, because there are consequences for both the mom and her children. Women with children from multiple fathers tend to be disadvantaged compared with other moms. "They are more likely to be underemployed, to have lower incomes and to be less educated," Dorius says. Further, this type of family structure can lead to a lot more stress for everyone involved, in part because the women need to juggle the demands and needs of more than one dad.

Dorius found that a multiple-father type of family structure was more common among minority women, with 59 percent of African-American mothers, 35 percent of Hispanic mothers and 22 percent of white mothers reporting children with more than one father. Women with low income and little education were also more likely to have children with different birth fathers.

An important message that doesn't appear to be getting through is just how hard it is to raise a child as a single parent. "While these women tended to be poorer than others to begin with, their whole lifetimes continue to be disadvantaged," she said.

The number of studies that come out about women and children is simply astonishing, and the angle is always the same: Children are suffering because of the choices of the mother. We're wondering where the study is about the number of men with children by multiple women? Men usually are somewhere around the scene of the crime when pregnancies occur, yet they get off of the hook when it comes to studies on populations, marriage, divorce and abortion.

If women are having children by multiple men, shouldn't there be a correlation to the number of men having children with multiple women? Even though these numbers are trotted out as data, they are often used to attack poor women, specifically women of color. No, we're not disputing the data, but we are interested in hearing a study that actually asks why women are making these decisions, as opposed to reinscribing dominant ideologies on the choices that women make.

The suggestion that women don't realize how hard it is to raise a child alone is ridiculous. Does the author of the study think that women are that stupid? Where is the study on the benefits of being raised in a single-parent home or of having multiple parental figures in your life?

Perhaps watching married women, many of whom function as single mothers because they are the primary caretakers of children, is the reason women are choosing single motherhood. While we keep making moral judgments about women who have children by multiple partners or out of wedlock, perhaps the reason is a rational one. What is the benefit of marriage when you will more than likely be raising the child by yourself anyway? If you're poor, middle class, black or brown, you'll be working outside of the home on top of it.

Why do people assume that women actually want children by different men? Sometimes things don't work out -- domestic battery, financial stress, philandering, verbal abuse or growing apart -- but women aren't supposed to move forward because they have a child? Keep waiting for that to happen, while we keep waiting for studies that don't demonize women to happen.

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