When Mrs. Grundy wanted to know the intimate habits of her neighbors, she had to sneak around, gossip and peer into living room windows. Today, we have the government to do the job for us. This June, the Centers for Disease Control released a new study titled "Fertility, Contraception and Fatherhood." Drawn from the National Survey of Family Growth, it provides the most intimate possible scientific look at the paternal lives of men between the ages of 15 and 44.
Who becomes a good father? Well, it helps enormously if you live with your kids.
Forty-nine percent of nonresident fathers say they never play with their kids, compared to less than 1 percent of resident fathers. Sixty-one percent of nonresident fathers never read to their kids, compared to 17 percent of live-in dads. Forty-two percent of nonresident dads confess they never talk to their children, compared to less than 3 percent of full-time fathers. Fifty-seven percent of nonresident fathers say they never eat with their kids, compared to less than 2 percent of live-in dads.
And if you want to live with your children, it helps to get married first and stay married. Ninety percent of men in their first marriage who have a biological or adopted child are living with all their kids, compared to 60 percent of cohabiting men, 55 percent of remarried men, 39 percent of divorced single guys, and 35 percent of never-married (not cohabiting) men. By the age of 25, a quarter of men say they've fathered a child out of wedlock, and more than a third of all new fathers (married and single) say their child was unplanned.
Maybe it's all that sex. By their early 40s, 63 percent of men have had at least six women sexually; 20 percent have had sexual relations with 20 women or more. On the other hand, 29 percent of men who marry for the first time in their early 20s were virgins. Even 8 percent of guys who married for the first time in their late 30s were virgins.
One piece of good news: Divorce rates are dropping. Forty-seven percent of men who married before 1984 saw their marriages dissolve after 10 years, compared to just 30 percent of men who married in the early '90s.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.