The Public Interest

The Teenage Marriage Controversy: Bringing Back the Shotgun Wedding

Frank F. Furstenberg , Maris A. Vinovskis & P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale

Winter 1988

BACK IN THE late 1950s, at the peak of the baby boom, no one thought that teenage parenthood was a problem in this country. To be sure, lots of adolescents had babies—even more than do today— but almost all were married before or shortly after the pregnancy occurred. As some family sociologists observed at the time, pregnancy was often part of the courtship process, propelling many young couples into marriage at an accelerated pace. Women risked their reputations when they consented to have sex. If they were unlucky enough to get pregnant, their boyfriends were expected to do the honorable thing—which they usually did, whether willingly or reluctantly.

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