Mom Delusions Re Dad

Romantic delusions can be expensive:

41% of [US] babies were born to unmarried moms in 2008. … More than half of the unmarried parents were living together at the time their child was born and 30% of them were romantically involved (but living apart). Most of those unwed mothers said their chances of marrying the baby’s father were 50% or greater, but after five years, only 16% of them had done so and only about 20% of the couples were still cohabiting.

These delusions seem obviously functional – people are who more confident in their partners are more attractive as partners.  But the cost of such costly signals can be great.

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  • ElRatio

    Would you care to elaborate on what you believe are the costs of this “delusion”?(How can it be a delusion if the parents honestly thought they’d be living together at that time – you’re not accounting for unforeseen circumstances) Would the child be better raised if the couple recognizes that it won’t work out and consent earlier to separate?

    And I don’t think the success rate is so bad either. The trend is reflected in normal marriages too.

    • josh


      • Sister Y

        Would the child be better raised if the couple recognizes that it won’t work out and consent earlier to separate?

        One problem is that people choose to have children based on delusions like lifetime marriage with the partner, so children are being born who would have been aborted (or not conceived) if their parents had been rational.

    • Captain Oblivious

      How can it be a delusion if the parents honestly thought they’d be living together at that time – you’re not accounting for unforeseen circumstances

      Of course he’s not accounting for unforeseen circumstances – if he did they wouldn’t be unforeseen. But the point isn’t Robin’s assessment of their future, or yours or mine – it’s the unwed mother’s assessments, which (for whatever reasons) are clearly drastically wrong. (Admittedly “delusions” is a strong word; I’d have used “miscalculations” or something)

  • PJF

    It’s not clear from the link – couldn’t we also conclude that the mismatch between expectations of marriage and actual marriage outcomes is as much due to the female being mercurial in her own affections as it is due to her being mistaken about the male’s?

  • Abelard Lindsey

    What I have never understood is why any woman right in the head would want to be a single mom. The single mom life sucks unless you have a lot of money. They have limited social life and personal freedom and are always strapped for cash. It is incomprehensible why anyone would consider this an attractive option.

    • Anonymous from UK

      It might be because building a lasting relationship with another person based upon love, respect and above all good communication is hard, and people usually take the path of least resistance. In the past, social stigma meant that just staying married was the path of least resistance. Nowadays splitting up is.

    • rapscallion

      Is it so hard to fathom that some people simply enjoy having children?

      Also, having a kid with someone is often a gambit to get some man to commit more to the relationship; even if you don’t get them to marry you, you can get more time and resources from them (whether voluntarily or through forced child support).

      • Abelard Lindsey

        No, I don’t understand. I don’t understand at all.

        I was living in Japan when the bubble ended, taking away the programmed life script that Japanese young people were taught to believe in. They responded by becoming freiters (slackers). They lived at home with their parents, partied with their friends and even with part time jobs, were able to save up enough money to hang out on the beaches of South East Asia, lonely-planet style, for months at a time. There are ways to have freedom and enjoy life without having a lot of money. Having kids on a limited budget destroys this kind of freedom.

        What I don’t understand at all is why anyone would give up this freedom for the sucky life of a single mom. This is incomprehensible to me. Here in the U.S. we have silly reality shows on MTV like “16 and pregnant” and “Teen Mom”. Sometimes I do not understand my fellow Americans.

        I think living as an expat for 10 years gives me perspective that most others lack.

    • Single-moms have higher Darwinian fitness than the childless.

      • Single-moms have higher Darwinian fitness than the childless.

        Along this line, I am confused by the people who “don’t understand” why someone would choose or risk becoming a single mother. It seems more than a little plausible that a species in which the females with some regularity choose this has incredible survival advantages over the ones where they do not.

      • Abelard Lindsey

        What happens when unmarried women chase down noncommittal cads, get knocked up by them, give birth to illegitimate bastards, and then languish in despair as they quickly notice their material well-being, love life, and dating market value deteriorating immensely as single moms?

        I don’t think you people understand what I am talking about. The life of a single mom generally sucks. It is incomprehensible to me why anyone would consciously make this kind of choice.

  • rapscallion

    I’m not convinced that these women really are delusional. It may will be that they are giving their hopes rather than their true expectations when they answer the survey questions. Having them wager on the likelihood of being married would be a better indicator of beliefs.

  • brazzy

    So among the 16% who had married, what percentage was divorced or living apart?

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  • bored

    Single mothers with children have been and are eligible for a host of benefits from the State that Married couples aren’t hence you have a lot of Single mothers with children out there.

    • Abelard Lindsey

      This is true. However, welfare reform in the mid 90’s trimmed many of these benefits, thus making single motherhood a lot less attractive, financially speaking. The results are apparent in the black fertility-rate, which dropped from nearly 3.0 to the present-day 1.9.

      In reality, the birthrate of the underclass has dropped significantly since the early 90’s, definitely a good thing. However, there are still many women who are deluded enough to believe that by allowing themselves to get “accidentally” pregnant, that they can get the guy to marry them. I don’t know how to cure this delusion, other than to say that once we have an effective male “pill”, “accidental” pregnancies will go the way of the horse and buggy. This will be a major benefit to society.

      Until then, if you are a single guy “in the market”, I recommend to play safe and to always use a condom, even if she says she’s on the pill (women often lie about this anyways). Remember Laurence Fishburn (Boys in the Hood) when he says “pilling isn’t going to keep your dick from falling off”.

      • Bryan Caplan says welfare had little detectable effect on fertility. I would like to hear someone give an explanation for why the fertility rate dropped over that period.

      • Sister Y

        It’s not a delusion; it’s an accurate perception of existing incentives. Not that the partner will marry her, but that he will be forced to support her for the life of the child, if she conceives. THAT is the problem – although lack of effective male birth control contributes.

  • Jordan

    Filter this by age and it makes complete sense. The age of these unwed births are pretty darn high compared to typical births. What if waiting for a candidate that will take good care of a child isn’t working? What then?

    Well, obviously, you should just get a genetic payload out there in the world, because it has a nonzero chance of reproducing. Not great, but better than no kid. So your biology conspires to trick you into thinking any old person who will mate with you is actually a reliable caretaker who will provide for the child. It would be more rational to remove the “reliable caretaker” criterion, but evolution doesn’t care whether you remove a criterion in your mind or simply delude yourself into thinking the criterion is fulfilled; you have a child either way.